WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards lost to the Sacramento Kings 123-110 on Saturday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five observations from what went down...
Not much defense
While the overall goals and expectations have naturally changed following Bradley Beal's season-ending injury and a sell-off at the trade deadline, many of the priorities remain the same, one of them being the hope for an improvement on the defensive end. Saturday's loss to the Kings showed it remains a work in progress.
The Wizards had a good night offensively, as they scored 110 points on 26 assists and made 13 threes. But the Kings found little resistance on the other end with 123 points. They shot 56.6% overall and 42.9% from deep, hitting a total of 12 threes.
The one thing the Wizards did do well on defense was force turnovers and make Sacramento pay for them. They turned 14 turnovers into 19 points, yet even with that, they lost by 13.
The Wizards fell to 25-30 on the season. They are now 1-1 since their trade deadline shakeup, though their biggest acquisition, Kristaps Porzingis, has yet to debut.
Ish came back
It was both a debut and a return for Ish Smith, as he played in his first game since coming over before the trade deadline on Thursday. Smith picked up right where he left off, bringing speed and hustle off the bench. They started Raul Neto at point guard and Smith came in behind him to add a jolt of pace and passing. He had nine points and five assists, showing off his trademark unorthodox jumper.
The most noticeable impact Smith made was with push-ahead passes on the fastbreak. He threw a nice one in the first quarter to catch Corey Kispert in stride for an easy dunk. He also found Rui Hachimura under the basket on a cherry-pick play in the second quarter. That element had been missing for the Wizards. While Smith is rarely going to make a major difference in the game, he gives them a new dynamic that they didn't previously have.
Kuzma was good
If the first two games the Wizards have played since the deadline are any indication, Kyle Kuzma is about to put up some numbers. He had his first career triple-double against the Nets on Thursday and followed that up with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists against the Kings on Saturday. At the moment, Kuzma is the Wizards' No. 1 scoring option and he's taking advantage of it. It isn't in a selfish way, either, he's making plays for others and scoring within the rhythm of the offense.
It will be interesting to see how things play out once Porzingis enters the mix. Surely, he will take up a sizable share of the offense. They also both like to make plays from the perimeter as bigs. But once they find some chemistry together, it could be a tough combination to stop.
Zags showed out
There are going to be plenty of minutes and shots to go around for the Wizards' young players down the stretch of this season and already we're seeing encouraging signs from a few of them. On Saturday, both Rui Hachimura and Kispert stood out in a good way. Hachimura poured in 13 points in 22 minutes, including 2-for-3 from three. His outside shot continues to look much-improved.
Kispert added 20 points and six assists, shooting 4-for-11 from three. He could have had a monster night if he hit a few open threes, ones which could be automatic at some point in his career. Both Hachimura and Kispert squared off against fellow Gonzaga alum Domantas Sabonis. The recently acquired Kings big man had 16 points and 11 rebounds; a solid all-around night, but a drop-off from the 29 points he was averaging against the Wizards this season through two games. And one of Hachimura's best plays came against Sabonis, as he crossed up the former Pacers All-Star for a tough and-one at the rim.
Beal was there
Two days after having surgery on his left wrist, Beal was on the Wizards' bench rooting on his teammates while sporting a sling and a large cast. He sat next to Porzingis, who was decked out in a light grey suit and loafers without socks, like he just got traded to Miami instead of D.C. Porzingis is continuing to sit out with a bone bruise in his right knee and is considered day-to-day, per head coach Wes Unseld Jr. He passed his physical and cleared all the medical hurdles in order to make his trade official.
The Wizards played once again without Daniel Gafford, who remains in health and safety protocols. Unseld Jr. suggested pregame he needs a second negative COVID test before he can return, which would indicate that may be soon. It will be interesting how the Wizards utilize him once he does return. One has to assume they start Porzingis at the five to keep Kuzma in the lineup, but will Gafford get a shot to compete with Thomas Bryant for the No. 2 center role? It seems worth noting Gafford was a backup last year when he made a huge impact and helped the Wizards go 17-6 down the stretch. Trying him out in that role again would seem worthwhile.