The Wizards were able to erase a 19-point deficit and get a big 105-100 win at home against the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night. It marked five straight wins for the Wizards and kept them in first place in the Eastern conference at 10-3. They were able to come away with the W despite being without their best player in All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal, who missed his second straight game mourning the death of his grandmother.
This Wizards team is clearly cut from a different cloth than last year’s however, as the Wizards were 2-10 in games without Beal last year. This year, they are 3-0 in such games. In his post-game presser, second-year forward Deni Avidja expressed his support for Beal on behalf of the team, dedicating the win to him.
Get yourself a brother like Deni Avidja 💯
Bradley Beal has taken time off the NBA to mourn for his grandmother's passing 🙏 pic.twitter.com/xzVKr9xReW
— Wizards Nation (@WizardsNationCP) November 16, 2021
The Wizards got off to a slow start on both sides of the floor but came out swinging in the second half to slowly chip away at the lead. Spencer Dinwiddie had another big game in Beal’s absence, tallying 27 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds. He scored 19 of his 27 in the second half and hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter. Other than Dinwiddie, Deni Avdija tallied 11 points and 10 rebounds on an efficient 5-6 shooting, and Montrezl Harrell subsisted on his usual diet of pick and rolls and putbacks off offensive rebounds to finish with 15 points.
The Lakers’ boys, Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, also had solid nights for themselves. KCP scored 18 points and put on a jump shot clinic in the fourth quarter, hitting fadeaways, sidesteps and midrange pull-ups to take and cement the lead. Kuzma went just 2-10 for the game, but his only two makes were timely 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter to help keep the Wizards in front. Aaron Holiday also stepped up and stepped into the starting lineup in Beal’s place, scoring 12 points on 6-11 shooting.
The Pelicans were led by 31 points from Brandon Ingram and 16 points from Jonas Valicunas. Shooting guard Josh Hart finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists but went just 3-13 from the floor. Despite shooting nine more free throws than the Wizards and making 12 more, they shot just 40.5 percent from the floor. Their hot shooting kept them in the game early, but once it tapered off and the Wizards found an offensive groove, they struggled to consistently score in half-court sets.
Thinking back to a year ago, this is a win the Wizards never would have gotten, With no Beal and an almost 20-point deficit, it would be easy to roll over and be resigned to a loss in a game without a key player. The fact that this team had the resolve to fight back into this game says a great deal about head coach Wes Unseld’s coaching and leadership. Clearly, he has found a way to get his squad to compete night in and night out, regardless of the situation. While it is still just 13 games into the regular season, the fact that the Wizards keep pulling off wins like this is going to make it hard for fans of the team to continue to contain their optimism. Here’s to hoping Unseld and the rest know how to keep the wins rolling.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and ESPN