WASHINGTON - The Washington Wizards beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 115-107 on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five observations from what went down...
While the Wizards' defense has battled some inconsistency of late, they have still shown the ability to lock down for extended stretches when they need to. They did that in the second half in a win over the Mavs last week and they did it again for the fourth quarter of their victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday. After giving up 88 points through the first three quarters, the Wizards clamped down to hold Minnesota to 19 points in the fourth.
There was an entertaining battle down low between Daniel Gafford of the Wizards and Karl-Anthony Towns of the T'Wolves. Towns went at him early, only to be blocked twice at the rim in the first four minutes. He missed his first six shots, but got hot in the second quarter with 16 points and ended up with 34 on the night, to go along with 10 rebounds.
Gafford, though, held his own and had got the best of Towns on countless plays, not only with the blocks but on rebounds and powerful dunks. He had 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. The fact he went toe-to-toe with one of the best big men in the NBA is yet another indication of his talent and potential.
The Wizards played without backup point guard Aaron Holiday, who was out due to a non-Covid related illness. Their other two point guards, Spencer Dinwiddie and Raul Neto, combined for only six points, though Dinwiddie had 11 assists. Also, offense wasn't really a problem.
The Wizards improved to 14-8 on the season. They host the Cavaliers on Friday in their next game with Ludacris set to perform afterward. That should be fun.
Harrell bounced back
It may have gone mostly unnoticed, but Monday's loss to the Spurs was the first game all season that Montrezl Harrell didn't score in double figures. He was the only Wizards player to reach double figures in each of their first 20 games this season, but against San Antonio he was held to six points on 3-for-7 shooting.
Harrell was looking for a rebound game and he got one against Minnesota. He came out swinging with 15 points in the first half and ended up with 27 points (11-12 FG) and five rebounds for the game. Harrell was dunking on players left and right, including a nasty one on Naz Reid. His best play was an alley-oop where he got so high in the air he threw the ball through the basket. He did that with his right hand, which he had injured just minutes earlier and so badly he had to ask out of the game. Harrell's a tough player.
Avdija vs. Edwards
This game featured a nice little duel between two top-10 picks from the 2020 NBA Draft. Anthony Edwards, picked No. 1 overall by Minnesota, and Deni Avdija, the ninth pick by the Wizards, went at it and Avdija was assigned to Edwards for much of the night. Avdija has been one of the best isolation defenders in the NBA this season, but Edwards had the upper hand in this round.
On multiple occasions, Edwards was able to get past Avdija off the dribble in ways we haven't often seen. Avdija does a terrific job of moving his feet and staying in front of players, even guards. But Edwards' first step and explosiveness are special and a big reason why he was the top pick in the draft. On one play, he blew past Avdija and finished in traffic with an up-and-under move few players even in the NBA could execute as smoothly. He's a star in the making.
Avdija, though, had a nice game overall. He pitched in with nine points and seven rebounds. Edwards had 25 points.
Bertans was better
Since we had been tracking Davis Bertans' slow start since coming back from a left ankle sprain, it's only fair to note that he played well against Minnesota. Bertans had 15 points and shot 3-for-4 from three, a marked improvement from the 1-for-19 he shot from long range in his first four games after returning.
Bertans got going with a dunk towards the end of the first quarter and popped a three from the wing not long after. He then hit another three in the second half. It was a small step towards where he wants to be, but a step nonetheless. Even with a few shots falling, you could see the impact he can make without shooting it. On one play in the first half, the Wolves had two players close out on him on the perimeter, so he dished it to Harrell who quickly found a cutting Corey Kispert for two.
Hachimura was in the house
It seems like every couple of days now Rui Hachimura takes a baby step towards his return. On Wednesday night it was a mostly symbolic one, as he joined the team on the bench for the first time since his long absence due to personal reasons began. Hachimura was sitting next to and interacting with his teammates just like most players do when they are out due to injury, though he isn't dealing with an injury, of course.
Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said before the game that Hachimura would continue working with the Wizards, suggesting his time with the Go-Go may be over, at least for now. He participated in their shootaround and was seen doing individual contact drills during the portion open to the media. Hachimura was knocking down shot after shot, first off the dribble and then in the post. His shot has looked excellent every time reporters have been able to watch.