The Washington Wizards beat the Pistons 100-97 in Detroit on Friday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
It almost happened again. The Wizards built a 17-point lead on the Detroit Pistons and appeared to be in cruise control, only to see their lead vanish and turn into a deficit. The Pistons took the lead with 5:01 left in the fourth quarter and had the momentum, but the Wizards were able to take it back and finish off the win.
That would have been yet another major collapse for the Wizards, who gave up a 23-point lead and lost to the Rockets just two games ago on Monday. But this time they were able to hold on and in doing so snapped a seven-game road losing streak.
They can thank Kristaps Porzingis for that, as he had his best scoring game since joining the Wizards at the trade deadline. He scored 30 points along with 10 rebounds and two blocks. Porzingis scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and managed to do so despite badly rolling his ankle at one point.
The Pistons put up a good fight led by star rookie Cade Cunningham. The No. 1 overall pick had 22 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. He kept getting past Wizards defenders off the dribble and either scoring or setting up Marvin Bagley III, who came off the bench to score 25 points.
The Wizards moved to 31-42 on the season with the win.
Deni went off
The Wizards took a 16-point lead into halftime in large part because of the boost Deni Avdija game them off the bench. He was in peak form and right away dropped in a series of outside shots. He got to the half with 17 points and seven rebounds, already having made three triples. He didn't necessarily do anything different than he normally he does, the shots were just falling.
And once he got a few to go down, Avdija's confidence seemed to grow. He finished the game with a career-high 21 points - including two clutch free throws late in the fourth - and 10 boards, on 7-for-16 shooting overall and 3-for-7 from three. Avdija has now reached double-figures five times in his last seven games, this following a stretch of three games in which he went scoreless. Avdija's scoring tends to come in bunches and right now he's in a hot streak.
Rui's big dunk
The Wizards' big first half was capped by an exclamation point, as Rui Hachimura put Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart on a poster with a vicious lefthanded slam. He drove into the lane, reached back and threw the hammer down. Hachimura was so jacked up afterwards that he got a technical foul, apparently for screaming in Stewart's direction. The tech actually led to three quick points for the Pistons, but honestly it was still worth it.
Hachimura ended up with 11 points and five rebounds. He shot 5-for-12 from the field and 1-for-5 from three, as he is starting to cool off a bit from the perimeter.
After two straight games that featured horrendous halves, particularly on the offensive end, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. made a change to his starting lineup by replacing Raul Neto with Tomas Satoransky at point guard. Neto, in fact, was pulled from the rotation altogether, as the Wizards went from using three point guards to two, with Ish Smith as the backup.
Satoransky had a modest game of six points and six assists, but the intended effect on the offense was there. The Wizards got off to a much better start than they did the night before when they scored only 13 points in the first quarter. This time they scored 25 points in the first and then dropped 35 in the second. Satoransky also gave the Wizards more size going up against Cunningham, who is 6-foot-8. He's a difficult matchup at the point guard position, but the Wizards happen to have a guy of similar size.
Gafford is hurt
The Wizards played without starting forward Kyle Kuzma for the fourth straight game as he is still dealing with right knee tendinitis. Once again, Unseld Jr. expressed optimism in his pregame press conference that Kuzma could return soon, but no one should hold their breath given how things have transpired so far. Unseld Jr. mentioned something about Kuzma having an encouraging workout, so we'll see.
There is also a new injury to report, as the Wizards were missing center Daniel Gafford due to a neck strain. Unseld Jr. said it happened in the loss to the Rockets on Monday. He was able to play against the Bucks on Thursday, but not the next night in Detroit. Given he already played one game through the discomfort, maybe it isn't very serious, but the Wizards also have incentive to play it extra safe now given where they are in the standings.