WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards beat the Los Angeles Lakers 127-119 on Saturday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five observations from what went down...
Porzingis led the comeback
The Wizards seemed dead in the water, having gone down by 16 points and with LeBron James on his way to another monster scoring night, one that saw him make history in the first half. Kristaps Porzingis, though, had other ideas.
The Unicorn took over the game in the fourth quarter with 16 of his 27 points. He was dominant after checking in with about eight minutes to go, taking advantage of size mismatches over and over down the stretch. The Lakers went small against him and the Wizards last week and it worked. It also seemed to throw him off for the first three quarters of this game.
But Porzings broke through late and in a big way, playing for the first time on the second night of a back-to-back since joining the Wizards in a trade deadline deal. He shot 9-for-17 from the field and 1-for-3 from three, logging 27 minutes on the night.
The Wizards snapped a six-game losing streak, as they sit tied for the 11th-best record in the East with the Knicks, at 30-40. New York, though, owns the head-to-head tiebreaker at the moment.
LeBron made history
There was a special moment in the second quarter as James reached a significant milestone in his legendary career. With a layup on a cut through the lane, James passed Karl Malone for the second-most points in NBA history and afterwards the Washington crowd rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation. James put his hand up to acknowledge the fans, then shook hands with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, his former teammate, at halfcourt.
Many questioned whether James would play in this game, as he logged 45 minutes the night before in an overtime win over the Raptors. He has also been dealing with a left knee injury and, perhaps most notable, the Lakers' next opponent is the Cavaliers. He entered the night just 19 points behind Malone and could have chosen to accomplish the feat in Cleveland, where he started his career.
The Lakers, though, are in the middle of the playoff race, as they began the day ninth in the West and in possession of a spot in the play-in tournament. James gave it a go and was able to surpass Malone in the first half as part of a 17-point second quarter. He scored the Lakers' first 13 points in the frame.
James ended up with 38 points (16-29 FG, 4-10 3PT), 10 rebounds and six assists for the game. It was another big-time performance just one week after he scored 50 points against the Wizards in L.A. This time, however, it came in a loss.
This game was the first for Russell Westbrook in Washington since he was traded by the Wizards to the Lakers over the summer. It was also one of the few times since he was initially acquired by the Wizards that he got to play in front of D.C. fans, as most of last season was played with Capital One Arena empty due to the coronavirus. During a first-quarter timeout, the Wizards played Westbrook a tribute video that of course featured the game when he set the career triple-doubles record. They then showed him on the scoreboard as fans gave him a big round of applause.
Westbrook ultimately asked out of Washington and there is definitely a percentage of the fanbase that felt it was smart to move on, but he certainly had a memorable season for the Wizards and a successful one, given he averaged a triple-double and helped lead them to the playoffs. It was a far cry from what he has experienced this year in L.A. where he has been an even bigger lightning rod for controversy than usual. He had 22 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists on Saturday.
Bench played well
The Wizards were kept in this game because of a strong collective effort from their second unit. Daniel Gafford was a force with 17 points and six rebounds on 7-for-9 shooting. He threw down a series of big dunks, as he took advantage of the Lakers going small. His production came in handy, as starting center Kristaps Porzingis started the night shooting 3-for-10.
Deni Avdija also came through with 17 points and four assists, though he shot just 4-for-14. And Tomas Satoransky had his best game since re-joining the Wizards with 16 points (6-6 FG). The Wizards' bench outscored that of the Lakers, 54-to-21. Carmelo Anthony made up a good portion of the Lakers' bench scoring with 13 points. The Wizards allowed him to get open from three a few too many times.
Kuzma was injured
While James was a gametime decision and played, his former teammate Kyle Kuzma was a surprise late scratch. After going through pregame warmups, it was announced he would sit due to right knee tendinitis. That is a new injury, though also one that could just be a matter of it being late in the season and the Wizards playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Basically, it might just be normal wear-and-tear.
It was the first game Kuzma has missed in nearly two months. Given it was against the Lakers, you have to imagine he was disappointed to not be able to play. He had also just broken out of a mini-slump in the fourth quarter the night before in New York. We'll see if he's good to go on Monday when the Wizards play at the Houston Rockets.