The Washington Wizards beat the Thunder in Oklahoma City 101-99 on Friday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
The Wizards began this season with smooth sailing out of the gate, collecting wins in a variety of ways, no matter the adversity they faced. Lately, it has been a much more difficult road where nothing has come easy, even against teams in which they have far more veteran talent.
Friday night was one of those games, but they were able to pull out a victory against a punchy Thunder team to snap a two-game losing streak and earn their first win of this four-game road trip. The Wizards held on to win by two points and move to 12-7 on the season. They now head to Dallas to see the Mavs in the second game of a back-to-back.
The Wizards got the win thanks to a Kyle Kuzma offensive rebound and putback with 36.6 seconds left. They also had to hold their breath as a would-be game-winning three from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander rolled out of the rim at the buzzer.
Gafford's block party
After a strong start to the season, Daniel Gafford has been battling some inconsistency of late. His scoring has come and gone and so has his rebounding. The one constant has been his shot-blocking, but he took it to a different level on Friday.
Gafford was swatting away Thunder shots left and right, particularly early. He had four blocks in his first 12 minutes on the floor to set a career-high for blocks in a single half. He added three more in the third quarter to set a new career-high for a game and ended up with eight blocks, the most for a Wizards player in a single game since three-time NBA champion and Olympic gold medalist (important to note) JaVale McGee had 12 in 2011.
Gafford's best block may have been on Darius Bazley who drove left only to have Gafford trail him and recover for the rejection. Gafford has now blocked at least one shot in his last seven games. He also added seven points, eight rebounds and a steal.
KCP came through
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has quietly been on a scoring surge in recent games, perhaps staying under the radar because he doesn't have the flashiest style, and because the Wizards have been losing some games. But when he gets going, he can be effective and he found his groove at a good time for the Wizards on Friday.
The Wizards had gone down by double-digits in the first half, but he helped key a comeback with nine points in the second quarter. They had a 19-7 run to end the first quarter and he scored seven points in a stretch of three minutes and 31 seconds. The Wizards were able to take the lead right before heading into the locker room.
Caldwell-Pope kept it going in the second half with a pair of back-to-back threes in the fourth. He made four threes on the night and tied a team-high with 20 points to go along with four rebounds and two blocks.
Solid from three
The Wizards started off this game looking like they were headed for another typically rough night from three. They missed their first five long-range shots and were 2-for-9 at the end of the first quarter.
But soon after, their shots started falling and the Wizards ended up with a pretty good shooting night from the perimeter. They hit 10-for-29 on the night, good for 34.5%, but they made eight of their last 20 attempts.
Caldwell-Pope (4-7 3PT), Bradley Beal (20 points, 2-7 3PT) and Spencer Dinwiddie (10 points, 2-4 3PT) each hit multiple threes. Kuzma (11 points) and Deni Avdija (nine points) added one three apiece.
While Gafford was blocking shots, the Wizards' defense as a whole was not getting the job done for much of the first half. The Thunder hit five of their first 11 attempts from three and had 16 paint points in the first quarter.
But the Wizards must have seen something on film at halftime because they came out with a dominant performance in the third quarter. They held OKC to only 14 points in the third quarter, the fewest Washington has allowed in a quarter since Feb. 20 of last season.
In that frame, the Thunder shot 5-for-21 (23.8%), 0-for-4 from three and had five turnovers. The Wizards did all that despite committing six turnovers of their own, which led to zero fastbreak points for OKC.