The Washington Wizards beat the Mavericks 120-114 in Dallas on Saturday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
Big road win
While the Wizards may have just barely beaten a young and struggling Thunder team on Friday, they were able to turn around the next night and secure a victory that was quite a bit more impressive. They went into Dallas and took out a Mavericks team that entered the day sitting fourth in the Western Conference.
That marked two straight wins for the Wizards, who moved to 2-1 on their four-game road trip. They will close it out at the San Antonio Spurs on Monday before returning home for two games against the Timberwolves and Cavs.
The Wizards had to come back from down eight points at halftime after Dallas outscored them 33-20 in the second quarter. But Washington chipped away slowly but surely to take the lead with about eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Once again, Kyle Kuzma came in the clutch with a timely 3-pointer. His triple with 1:34 left put the Wizards up three and they didn't look back.
The Mavs are the best team in the West that the Wizards have beaten this season, based on the current standings. The Wizards are now 13-7 on the year
Beal vs. Luka
This game at times turned into a shootout between two of the best scorers in the world; Bradley Beal and Luka Doncic. Both got going early and neither found much resistance from the opposing defense. Beal hit his first seven shots, while Doncic wasn't far behind as they each had 17 points at halftime.
Beal finished the game with 26 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals on 10-for-14 shooting. Doncic had 33 points, 10 assists and four rebounds, all while shooting 13-for-25 from the field. Beal looked the best he has all season in terms of his ability to create space and execute. Doncic, meanwhile, was doing all this on an injured left ankle and knee.
Avdija on Luka
One matchup that was intriguing going in was Doncic against Deni Avdija, who is starting to make a name for himself on the defensive end. He is about the same size and was also drafted from the EuroLeague. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said before the game Avdija would spend some time guarding Doncic and that is indeed what happened. Kuzma started out on Doncic before Avdija took over once he came off the bench.
Unfortunately for those looking forward to their duel, it seemed like every time Avdija was on Doncic the Mavs broke him free of a screen. Avdija was constantly getting picks set from behind and often had to switch onto another player. When he tried to stay with Doncic, he made Avdija pay, including in the first half when he nailed a three when Avdija went under the screen.
The Mavs like to run plenty of pick-and-roll when Doncic is the ball-handler, but perhaps it could also be seen as a sign of respect that they were so active in trying to get switches. Doncic was hunting mismatches and may have seen Avdija is someone to avoid when possible.
Not much defense
Beal and Doncic weren't the only players to find a rhythm, as both teams had big nights on the offensive end. The Wizards shot 57.7% from the field, while the Mavs shot 14-for-38 (36.8%) from three. In addition to Beal on the Wizards, Kuzma had a good game with 22 points, so did Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with 16 points. Daniel Gafford added 14 points (with 10 rebounds and two blocks), Montrezl Harrell had 11 points, while Raul Neto had a strong game with 13 points, six assists and five boards.
For the Mavs, Kristaps Porzingis had 13 points and seven rebounds, while Maxi Kleber and Trey Burke came off the bench to drop 27 points combined. After a strong start to the season defensively, the Wizards have been inconsistent in recent games. They gave up 69 points in the first half, but only allowed 45 in the second half. That was the difference in the win.
Bertans is struggling
The return of Davis Bertans has not gone so well. The veteran forward played his third game since returning from a left ankle sprain and once again went to Antarctica from long range. He was 0-for-3 in his first eight minutes before Unseld Jr. sat him on the bench until there were about four minutes left in the third quarter. After two more misses from deep, he was out of the game for good.
Bertans is now 1-for-16 from long range since returning. Unseld Jr. basically gave his late-game minutes to rookie Corey Kispert, who rewarded him with two clutch buckets in the fourth quarter. Both of them were on cuts to the rim, which is a noted aspect of Kispert's offensive game. He comes from Gonzaga where Mark Few runs an offense that is in many ways designed around them.