The Washington Wizards lost to the Kings 119-105 in Sacramento on Wednesday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
The Wizards weren't exactly playing their best brand of basketball, but they were scoring and pieced together a 12-point lead against the Kings in the third quarter on Wednesday night.. Somehow, right after that the wheels started coming off, as Sacramento snatched the momentum away and blew past the Wizards to the finish line.
The Wizards have been blown out recently, they have lost close games, but going up relatively big and then blowing it; that's a new one. They hadn't lost a game this season when leading more than 10.
It especially stings when that type of loss is suffered at the hands of a below average team. The Kings improved to just 12-17 and had lost three straight coming in.
The Wizards, losers of six of their last seven and 11 of 16, are now 15-14 on the year with the Suns due up next. Only the Warriors have a better record in the NBA than the Suns do, so .500 is lurking over their shoulders. After starting the season 10-3, things continue to speed in the wrong direction.
At least Beal was good
This was the type of game you expect to see far more often than we have so far this season from Bradley Beal. He had 11 points in the first quarter and 19 by halftime.
Beal would end up with 30 points on 13-for-24 shooting from the field. He also had five rebounds, five assists and three turnovers. Maybe this can be the start of something. It feels inevitable he will start stringing games like this one together very soon.
Unfortunately for the Wizards, another player from Beal's draft class, Harrison Barnes, stole the show. He had 15 points in the fourth quarter to help Sacramento take control.
Kuzma was back
The Wizards had Kyle Kuzma back in the starting lineup after he missed the last two games following a positive COVID-19 test. He made his biggest impact helping with ball movement, as it was otherwise a quiet night for him. Kuzma had six points, four assists and shot 3-for-10.
It does not sound like Kuzma experienced symptoms of the coronavirus, based on how head coach Wes Unseld Jr. characterized it. Still, he hadn't played in a week and didn't get the opportunity to practice before he had to return to game action. So, the expectations could only be set so high for his first game back.
While Kuzma returned from protocol, the Kings played this game without their head coach, Alvin Gentry, who entered protocol earlier on Wednesday following a positive test. Assistant coach Doug Christie, formerly of those great early 00s Kings teams, served as his replacement.
Living in the paint
The Wizards played well offensively, but had another rough night on the other end. The Kings just had far too easy a path to the rim. De'Aaron Fox was a big reason for that, as he got past the Wizards' perimeter front early and often, and that opened up opportunities for others. Fox had 16 points in the first half and 28 on the night.
Fox led a Kings' offense that scored 68 points in the paint. They scored 119 points despite shooting just 8-for-26 (30.8%) from three. Daniel Gafford has proven to be one of the game's best shot-blockers, but that element alone has not led to the Wizards shoring up their paint defense this season. They entered this game allowing the fifth-most paint points in the league (48.2/g).
Gafford tweaked something
Speaking of Gafford, he had to leave this game early in the first quarter with an apparent injury, either to his right leg or foot, it was hard to tell. Gafford was wincing in pain and asked out. He then quickly left for the locker room, only to return to the court early in the second quarter and finish with 14 points and six rebounds. Gafford has made a habit of fighting through minor injuries this season.
Still, it's something to watch for two reasons, one being that the Wizards play the next night in Phoenix on the second night of a back-to-back. Also, before this game Unseld Jr. indicated Thomas Bryant could return in January, rather than in December as originally indicated by team president Tommy Sheppard. It appears he's going to need a little more time, which means the Wizards will need Gafford because he's one of only two centers on the roster along with Montrezl Harrell.