The Washington Wizards beat the Jazz 109-103 in Utah on Saturday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
After Thursday's loss which gave the Wizards' their first four-game losing streak of the season, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. remarked how the schedule was not doing his team any favors. They were going one of their toughest stretches of the season, if not the most difficult.
The Wizards, though, managed to play their best game arguably in weeks to beat a very good Jazz team that had rocked them by 25 points just one week prior. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit the big shot, a tough contested three with 11.6 seconds left to put the Wizards up by five.
It helped the Wizards made some progress defending the paint after getting demolished by Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside last week. The Wizards outdid Utah 54-30 in the lane, as a more physical brand of defense seemed to work for them. They also did a better job not overselling on threes, which last week led to better looks around the basket.
With the win, the Wizards moved to 16-15 on the year. Up next are the Brooklyn Nets, who have the majority of their roster currently in the league's health and safety protocol.
Avdija is playing well
The defense has been there for Deni Avdija all season long, even lately you could say he's been one of the team's few bright spots on that end of the floor. Recently, his offense is starting to really catch up. He had 15 points and 14 points in his last two games entering Saturday and came through with another solid game of 11 points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block against the Jazz.
Avdija helped the Wizards overcome an 11-point first-half deficit to take a three-point lead into halftime by getting some key stops on Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson and then cashing in on the other end. Avdija shot 4-for-5 overall and 2-for-2 from three-point range. Over his last three games, he's shooting 66.7% from the field and 62.5% from deep.
Avdija has reached double-figure scoring in three straight games for the first time in his career. While there haven't been many positives for the Wizards in recent weeks, Avdija's continued development has been one of them.
Beal kept it rolling
As the Wizards have dealt with an extended slump as a team, Bradley Beal is all of a sudden playing his best basketball of the season. He had another big game on Saturday with a season-high 37 points on 13-for-24 shooting to go along with seven assists and five rebounds. Beal had 20 points in the first half after scoring 20 in the first half on Thursday and 19 in the first half the night before.
He's finding his shooting stroke early in games and he's getting his buckets in different ways, a trademark of when he's in peak form. Beal got a series of buckets off passes cutting to the rim and also knocked down a few catch-and-shoot threes of screens. He was also getting fouls called, which isn't always the case, and likely helped him find his shot. Beal went 9-for-10 from the line.
Beal is now averaging 27.4 points over his last seven games. That should help the Wizards' offense, which has struggled for the most part this year.
Beal dunked on Gobert
Beal had a big night overall, but one highlight stood out above the others. In the third quarter, he drove into the lane and put one on Gobert's head. It was vicious posterdunk and it came not too long after Beal had rolled his left ankle, on the same leg he jumped off of to throw down.
Gobert is, of course, one of the best rim-protectors in the league, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year who had six blocks in this game. He was a force in the lane all night, particularly against Daniel Gafford. But Beal wasn't scared one bit and came right down the runway for lift-off.
Neto changed momentum
Avdija helped spark the Wizards in the first half and so did Raul Neto, who was playing against his former team. He came off the bench in the first quarter and made his first three shots and also helped get the Wizards going with some crafty passing in transition. Neto had 15 points for the game to go along with seven rebounds and four assists.
Neto hasn't been able to put up the same numbers he did last season in a career year, but he's been trending upward on the offensive end. This was the seventh time in 14 games he's reached double-figures in scoring. He did that only twice in his first 17 games this season.
Avdija and Neto, along with Montrezl Harrell, combined for a strong night for the Wizards' bench, as they outscored the Jazz' second unit 39-to-24. It was a short rotation, though, as Unseld Jr. barely played Davis Bertans and Aaron Holiday. Corey Kispert didn't see the floor. Avdija and Neto, meanwhile, were part of the closing lineup in the fourth.