Wizards

Kuzma, Dinwiddie lead Wizards over Thunder without Beal

Wizards

The Wizards pulled ahead of the Thunder in the final minutes, aided by a big 3-pointer with 30.8 seconds left from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, to earn a hard-fought 122-118 win at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night for the team's second win in a row.

Washington is now 21-20 at the halfway mark of the regular season.

Here are a few takeaways from the Wizards' win: 

Offense shines, defense doesn't 

The Wizards entered Tuesday's game against the Thunder with a defense looking to get back on track and a golden offensive opportunity. They got one of the two.

Against a decent Thunder defense, the Wizards scored 122 points, led by a host of scorers. In total, the Wizards shot 54% from the field. 

But against perhaps the league's worst offense, the defense struggled to get stops when they needed. If it weren't for the stellar shooting night, the game could've gone vastly different as it was the fifth time in six games the team allowed at least 114 points.

Kuzma once again led the way with 29 points, the eight-straight games he's scored at least 20 points. 

Harrell returns to the floor

For the first time since Dec. 26, the Wizards had fan-favorite Montrezl Harrell back on the floor. 

Harrell was placed in health and safety protocols on Dec. 28 and made his return against the Thunder after getting back into playing shape. He played 24:05 and finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. 

With center Thomas Bryant seemingly a day away from his return, Harrell and the Wizards' frontcourt rotations will get mighty interesting as coach Wes Unseld Jr. looks to juggle a deeper lineup for the first time all season. 

 

Beal goes to protocol

The Wizards, just as it appeared they were getting healthier and becoming the team envisioned at the start of the season, were dealt more bad news hours before tip-off Tuesday. 

Bradley Beal, the team’s leading scorer, was placed in COVID protocols for the second time this season, his second trip to the list in under a month. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. is hopeful that a return to the floor won’t be long for Beal, but he will need two negative tests to return to the floor. 

Absent Beal, the Wizards played 10 different players in the first quarter, a number that might grow Wednesday with the return of Bryant.

Kispert starts

In Beal’s place, the Wizards turned to rookie Corey Kispert for his fifth NBA start. And his performance went much like one would expect a rookie’s performance to go. 

He showed flashes of why the Wizards selected him in the first round of the 2021 draft with a mix of good shooting and playmaking, but also showed where improvement is needed. Specifically, he made a bad turnover in the second quarter after diving for a loose ball that led to a Thunder basket. 

Kispert finished the night with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor. 

But in just his 36th NBA game, and now halfway through his rookie season, the Wizards hope to see continued growth from the Gonzaga product.

Midway mark

The Wizards officially reached the halfway mark of the 2021-22 season Tuesday night, as weird as that might seem. 

But they did so with an exclamation point, as they won a fun contest over the Thunder to reach 21-20 on the season before the second half begins Wednesday against the Magic. 

They’ll play the next seven games at home, and 12 of the next 15 at home, too. If the Wizards want to get off to a hot start to the second half of the season, the opportunity is there as they have just one road game left in the month of January.