Wizards

Kuzma loves and hates having to hit clutch baskets for Wizards

Wizards

Kyle Kuzma wants to emphasize that he gets nervous just like everyone else. 

Oftentimes this season, the Wizards have turned to Kuzma when they need a hero late in games. In November, Kuzma was the reason the Wizards beat the Cavaliers with clutch 3-pointers in the final seconds. 

And on Monday with the snow and ice piled on the roads outside Capital One Arena, Kuzma caught fire in the game’s final moments to pull the Wizards in front of the Hornets for good in a 124-121 win.

“I love it and I hate it at the same time,” Kuzma said of his late game heroics. “I’d rather win by 15 and not have those types of opportunities because it’s a lot of stress, honestly. But at the same time, I do love it because I feel like I’m built for those type of moments, just all the adversity that I’ve been through in my entire life.”

And when asked if he really did have that stress, he was honest.

“I got a lot of stress all the time, for sure,” Kuzma explained. “I’m human. I do a good job of hiding it for sure, but every human has anxiety, depression, stress at all times. I just do a good job of hiding it I guess.”

In total, Kuzma finished with 36 points on 13-of-26 shooting, including a 6-for-11 mark from beyond the arc. He added 14 rebounds and six assists to boot in what was undoubtedly his best performance as a Wizard. 

 

Since he was traded from the Lakers this offseason, he’s become a true reliable second scorer for a Wizards’ lineup that struggled to produce offense last year aside from Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook. 

Now, paired with Beal’s 35 points, the Wizards have found a role for Kuzma and it involves being the man given the basketball in late-game situations.

“He’s a confidence guy,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “He’s played in big moments and he’s had a big role on a championship team. I don’t know if it’s that or he’s just not worried about it, he’s not afraid of the moment. I give him a lot of credit. He stepped up and made big plays late.”

In the fourth quarter alone, Kuzma added 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. Three of those came in the final three minutes of game time.

"It’s just like, ‘Just go out there and see what happens at the end of the day,’” Kuzma said. “It’s either going to be a make or a miss. That’s just how my approach is and that just kind of helps me ease tensions during those times in the game. There’s only two options and one or the other is going to happen.”