WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 115-110 on Saturday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five observations from what went down...
The Blazers were missing Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, their two best players, and the Wizards had won three straight games. Though they were without Bradley Beal, the Wizards had a prime opportunity to make it four in a row on Saturday night, playing at home against a bad team.
That didn't happen, as the Blazers got hot from three early and won relatively comfortably in a game they led by as many as 18 points. Portland made 13 threes, while the Wizards had 20 turnovers. That's just not a winning combination.
The tough part is the Wizards' schedule is about to get much more difficult. Though their next five games are at home, they will host the Sixers, Nets and Raptors in their next three. Washington will need to play much better than they did Saturday to have a chance.
The Wizards played without head coach Wes Unseld Jr. and with assistant Pat Delany in his place. Unseld Jr. is in health and safety protocols.
Simons was unstoppable
The Blazers may have been missing their two star guards, but they may have another one in the making. Anfernee Simons has been on a heater lately and he was unstoppable against the Wizards. He had 26 points in the first half alone on 7-for-10 from three. Time and time again he got free of screens and dropped in pull-up threes like they were nothing.
Simons spread the love, too. He hit threes over just about every Wizards perimeter defender. Deni Avdija, Raul Neto, Rui Hachimura, Spencer Dinwiddie and others got some. Simons also found success attacking the lane and ended up with 31 points on 7-for-14 from 3-point range. He's only 22 years old and is really starting to come into his own.
Kuzma cooled off a bit
Kyle Kuzma was probably due for an off-night, or at least a more regular night. The guy had been on fire, scoring 20-plus points in eight straight games and nearly notching a triple-double in the ninth. But he wasn't quite as good on Saturday night against the Blazers with a more modest game of 16 points, 12 rebounds and five turnovers, his last one at a crucial time in the final minute.
Kuzma was pushing the pace in transition and getting downhill into the lane, he just wasn't making some of the shots he's been sinking on the regular lately. With Beal out, Kuzma's scoring production has been huge and when that was missing for one night, it hurt. The Wizards have a smaller margin for error offensively when Beal isn't out there.
Bryant and Hachimura
This is not to be presented as an excuse, as this loss doesn't warrant one, but it's a worthy reminder the Wizards are trying to work in not one but two players who missed the first half of the season. Both Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant are playing catch-up while just about everyone else is in midseason form. The hope would be they can each make quick and steady progress towards being key contributors for the Wizards, as they could use their help.
Hachimura saw his playing time go up a bit to a season-high 15 minutes, though he continues to look rusty and like a guy who is working to get his legs back under him. He only had five points, though he did make his first three since returning after starting out 0-for-5. The shot displayed what appears to be some added arc, which he's been working on ever since he was drafted. Bryant, meanwhile, only played 12 minutes (seven in the fourth quarter, though) and went scoreless. Clearly, the Wizards plan to bring him along slowly.
Kispert played well
Davis Bertans was considered questionable for this game with his mid-foot sprain until he went through the team's morning shootaround and realized he couldn't give it a go. That led to more minutes for rookie Corey Kispert, who had already been starting in place of Beal while he's in protocol. Kispert had a nice game against Portland with 13 points and seven rebounds. He shot 3-for-5 from three.
Kispert has been showing off a quicker release as of late. When passes are thrown into his shooting pocket, he can get a shot off in practically no time at all. And lately, he's been making a few of them. It's an effective weapon, especially if there is a defender on him. He doesn't need as much space as most players do to sink a three and he seems to be particularly good at it when he's in the corner, catching the ball either from his left or his right.