The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 135-134 in overtime in their home opener on Friday night without star guard Bradley Beal. Here are five observations from what went down...
Keep it rolling
After an offseason where the Wizards were widely applauded for their newfound depth, they got an excellent test for just that on Friday night in their second game of the 2021-22 regular season. They would have to play without Beal (hip), a guy they went 2-10 without last season, against a playoff-caliber Indiana Pacers team.
It was just one game, but they passed that test with a convincing win to push them to 2-0 on the year. That is their best start to a season since 2017-18.
With Beal out, Spencer Dinwiddie (34 points, nine assists) and Kyle Kuzma (26 points, 11 rebounds) stepped up in the scoring department. Dinwiddie hit a big-time three with 35 seconds left to force overtime and Kuzma made a tough up-and-under shot in overtime, plus a free throw to seal the victory.
Offense wasn't a problem overall, as the Wizards shot 52.1% from the field and 50% from three (19-for-38). Their defense could use some improvement, but a win is a win.
Though Beal missed this one, he is not expected to be out any longer. Unseld Jr. said before the game that he is expected to play on Monday when the Wizards travel to Brooklyn. They will be off Saturday and practice Sunday before heading north.
That's, of course, good news. Though the Wizards may be built to withstand injuries better than they have been in the past, it's still tough to plan for losing your best player. Also, they aren't as deep at shooting guards as they are at other spots.
Bertans played well
After a rough season debut that led to him playing only 13 minutes, Davis Bertans bounced back in a big way against Indiana. Bertans lit a spark in the second quarter with an outside shooting barrage to cut down a nine-point lead by the Pacers and set the Wizards up to take advantage. He had 14 points by halftime, going 3-for-5 from three. For the game, he dropped 17 points and shot 4-for-9 from long range, including a big three in overtime to give the Wizards the lead.
Bertans also had a nice defensive stop in the third quarter when he was left to guard rookie Chris Duarte in isolation as the shot clock was winding down. Bertans stayed in front of him and contested a long range shot as the clock expired.
Rapper Wale was sitting courtside in a yellow beanie and got up from his seat, stepping onto the floor to celebrate. Wale may need to hire a getback guy like some NFL coaches have these days. But, hey, who can blame him for getting excited?
Kispert's NBA debut
With Beal being out, that opened the door for rookie first round pick Corey Kispert to play for the first time. He was a DNP in Wednesday's season-opener at Toronto. Kispert played 10 minutes and had a modest stat-line of two points, a rebound, assist and a steal.
But beyond the numbers, he showed some flashes in the plays he did make. His first basket was a drive to the rim where he scored around Indiana center Domantas Sabonis. He caught a pass on the wing, faked a pass to his left, noticed an opening in the lane and took off. The pump-fake was a subtle, smart move and he was assertive attacking the basket.
Neto came up big
It is still a bit surprising the Wizards were able to re-sign Raul Neto in the offseason. He had a career year last season and seemed to be in line for a considerable raise. But the market played out and he was left standing when the dust settled, making him once again a good fit for the Wizards.
They won't complain about that because he continues to make an outsized impact for them off the bench. Neto gave them a big boost with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field, plus two steals. Some of his plays were just so Neto, as he dove into traffic without a care in the world for himself, putting his body on the line for the team. His teammates clearly loved it, of course, as he has become known for his effort plays that change momentum.