The Washington Wizards beat the Sacramento Kings 123-111 on Wednesday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
Gained some ground
If the Wizards were to get healthy at the right time and start winning enough games to make a real push for the play-in tournament, the time to do that would be now. Over the last week, they have shown some signs that maybe -- just maybe -- they can at least make it interesting.
After beating the Kings on Wednesday, the Wizards have won four of their last five games, going 4-2 on a long road trip. They also got some help with the Bulls losing to the Magic, which left Washington tied with the Raptors at just one game back from the 10th seed in the East, which is the final spot in the play-in tournament. Chicago has now lost 10 of 13 games.
After all the injuries, the COVID-19 outbreak and the disappointing losses (some less excusable than others), can the Wizards really do this?
Beal helped his cause
Bradley Beal has been the NBA's leading scorer for months, but his quest for a scoring title has been threatened by injuries plus him slowing down a bit lately while Stephen Curry has begun to close the gap. Entering Wednesday's game, Beal was just 0.6 points ahead of Curry with his season average at 31.0. That number has gone down for Beal as he's averaged 26.2 points over his last 14 games, which is still very good but not scoring title good.
Beal gave his candidacy a boost against the Kings, however, with 31 points including 20 in the first half (Curry had 42 in 29 minutes on Wednesday). It was Beal's first time scoring 30-plus in consecutive games since February. He shot 10-for-22 from the field and 2-for-8 from three. Beal has managed to lead the NBA in scoring this season despite shooting the lowest three-point percentage of his career (34.4%).
Perhaps most important was just the fact Beal played, as Wednesday was his 45th game of the season. That means he only has to appear in five of the Wizards' final 18 games to qualify for the scoring title leaderboard. It would be a shame if that rule came into play, but it looks like Beal should be above the threshold barring something unforeseen.
Deni came to play
Rookie Deni Avdija bounced back nicely after two games of foul trouble and a scoreless outing against the Jazz on Monday. He was aggressive on offense right away and that paid off, as he accrued 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting. He added four rebounds, a block and a steal.
Avdija even outplayed Tyrese Haliburton, who was taken just three picks later and could take home the Rookie of the Year award. Haliburton had eight points, six assists and six steals. Comparing them is interesting, as Haliburton has been the better player so far and by a fairly good margin, but Avdija still has arguably a higher long-term ceiling because of his size, skillset and athleticism.
Whiteside was a problem
This game may have been a blowout if it weren't for Hassan Whiteside's play in the second quarter. He took advantage of Daniel Gafford being out and had a field day in the paint, blocking three shots in the first half and adding a few buckets around the rim to help key a big run by Sacramento to cut the lead to single digits. The Kings went into halftime down 10.
Whiteside may have had the same success against Gafford, but the fact he was hurting the Wizards while he was off the floor was a reminder of Gafford's current limitations while playing on a minutes restriction. The Wizards are trying to keep him at only 16 minutes a game which is not a lot by any stretch.
When will the Kings be good?
It's amazing watching the Kings knowing they haven't made the playoffs since 2006 (Peja Stojakovic was on the team), almost certainly aren't going to make it this season, yet have all these recent top draft picks, some of which have shown real promise.
Haliburton is really good, so is De'Aaron Fox. Marvin Bagley III was the second overall pick and has put up solid numbers but can't stay healthy. That's not to mention all the top draft picks they have churned through during that time, now 15 years since a postseason berth.
Really, it's a horror story of tanking. This team has essentially tanked for a decade-and-a-half with little to show for it. It can be tough being a Wizards fan, but Kings fans clearly have had it worse for quite some time.