Wizards enter All-Star break on high note with win over Nets


The Washington Wizards beat the Nets 117-103 in Brooklyn on Thursday night. Here are five observations from what went down...

Win before the break

Wizards players were outspoken as the team entered the trade deadline one week ago, clamoring for changes to be made. While their biggest acquisition Kristaps Porzingis hasn't even played yet, the team has come out of their major roster shakeup winners of three of their last five games.

They beat the Nets on Thursday night to enter the All-Star break on a high note. They are still only 27-31 on the season but are starting to build some positive momentum.

The star of the game for the Wizards was Rui Hachimura, who came off the bench to score 20 points in 27 minutes. He had 13 points in the fourth quarter alone and on the night shot 8-for-15 overall and 2-for-2 from three. His improved 3-point shot continues to impress.

The Wizards were once again without Porzingis and Bradley Beal, who is done for the year. The Nets were even more undermanned, playing without their entire big three of Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving.

Still, the way this one transpired made it a meaningful win. It came on the road and the Wizards caught fire late to outscore Brooklyn 39-25 in the fourth quarter.

Gafford returned

The Wizards got Daniel Gafford back after a five-game absence due to health and safety protocols. He was in protocols for three games, then sat for two more for reconditioning. The Wizards were happy to have him with Porzingis still out and them having played the last several games thin at center.

Gafford showed some rust early on with two fouls in his first 1:35 of action and then a defensive three-second call. But after that, he settled in and made some nice plays including a big-time putback slam off a Deni Avdija missed floater and a block on Andre Drummond at the rim. Gafford played 13 minutes and had a line of five points, five rebounds and a block.

Gill played well

With Gafford back, the Wizards stuck with Thomas Bryant as their starting center. Bryant also came through with a solid game of 12 points, five rebounds and two blocks. It was his fourth time in five games reaching double-figures.

But while both Gafford and Bryant had their moments, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. rolled with Anthony Gill at the five for much of the fourth quarter. He had one of his best games as an NBA player with 12 points and two blocks, shooting 4-for-7 from the field and 2-for-2 from three. Gill had seven points in nine minutes in the fourth quarter and was a big reason the Wizards pulled out the victory.

Kispert is blossoming

Big games from rookie Corey Kispert are starting to become more and more frequent. He came through with 16 points against the Nets, shooting 4-for-6 from three. It was the fourth time in six games he's reached double-figure scoring and the second time in four games he's made four threes. In the other game, he took 11 attempts, though. He was much more precise in this one.

Kispert is starting to make the impact the Wizards hoped he would when they took him 15th overall in the 2021 draft. He is knocking down threes from all over on catch-and-shoot plays with a lightning-quick release. A few of his threes against the Nets were in the corner and Brooklyn didn't give him much space to operate. He didn't need it, he still made them pay.

Nets are deep

Brooklyn was missing their three best players plus sharpshooter Joe Harris, so the Wizards essentially played their supporting cast. That supporting cast, however, still has plenty of talent. Patty Mills started at point guard and dropped 22 points, including 17 in the first half. He made five threes. Cam Thomas had 20 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 and Jevon Carter had 14 points, all off the bench.

The Nets were still able to roll a 10-man rotation of quality players.  Brooklyn didn't even play Nic Claxton and he's pretty solid. Obviously, they have some variables that will determine their ability to contend with Durant's health concerns, Simmons having yet to play this season and Irving only being available half of the time. But the sheer quantity of talent they have is impressive nonetheless.

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