Wizards fail in the paint and 4 more Pacers loss sightings
The Washington Wizards lost to the Pacers 113-108 at Indiana on Wednesday night. Here are five observations of what happened…
Lost in the paint
The Wizards have struggled to defend the paint all season and that’s what did them more than anything against the Pacers on Wednesday night. The absence of their top two rim protectors, Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford, certainly didn’t help that cause.
The Pacers enjoyed a 74–36 advantage in paint points; the 74 points awarded is a season high. Tristan Thompson (17 points, 8-9 FG) did a lot of damage on the Indiana bench. The Wizards also struggled to stop Tyrese Haliburton (21 points, 14 assists) and Buddy Hield (15 points, seven assists) off the dribble. Haliburton lived in the lane as his size and speed overwhelmed the Wizards backcourt.
The Wizards were led by Kyle Kuzma (26 points, 15 rebounds) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (27 points). Kuzma continues to serve as the Wizards’ leading scorer with Bradley Beal out for the season.
The loss dropped Washington to 26-31 all season. They face the Nets on Thursday in the second straight game in their last game before the All-Star break.
Neto shows signs
One of the positive effects of the Wizards’ deals so far has been the rejuvenation of Raul Neto. Neto has hit double digits in all four games since being moved to the starting point guard spot. Wednesday against the Pacers, he had 10 points, eight assists and two steals.
Neto’s 3-point shooting dipped from last season, but went 2-for-2 against Indiana. He also did a good job breaking down the dribble defense. Neto can be safe as the starting point guard for the rest of this season. Ish Smith is now in the mix, but that’s it in terms of their playmaker rotation. Neto was also ahead of Smith on the depth chart last season and Smith has been a substitute the vast majority of the time throughout. of his career with the Wizards.
once in a lifetime
There was one game in this game that deserved its own category because it was absolutely remarkable. It was in the fourth quarter, as Deni Avdija’s quick overlay attempt tumbled. Along comes the 33-year-old, 6-foot-tall Smith, who stood up and threw a two-handed slam. Smith hardly ever dunks, and on purpose he said so in an interview with NBC Sports Washington years ago. But in that moment, he decided to treat the Pacers crowd at Gainbridge Fieldhouse with a rarely seen display of outstanding athleticism and showmanship.
Aside from Smith’s dunk, that wasn’t Avdija’s only missed shot from close range in the game. Although they have been challenged, he has struggled with it this season. Avdija came into the game shooting the team’s worst 65.4% from less than a yard from the edge. He knows it’s a problem and his teammates too. During a lay-up drill in recent practice, after Avdija tried a trick around the edge, Kuzma said he should come up harder, joking that’s why he always misses them . Seriously, it’s an adjustment he needs to make.
Maybe it’s just a matter of riding harder and with more confidence. During warm-ups before a match at Capital One Arena recently, Avdija threw a very nice windmill snap. He proved he could do it. It’s perhaps worth noting that he entered this season after a fairly serious ankle injury, which could be a factor. Avdija also played well in this game with 14 points and seven rebounds.
With Porzingis, Gafford and Rui Hachimura (ankle) all out, the Wizards deepened their frontcourt rotation. Anthony Gill got 16 minutes of action and we saw rookie Isaiah Todd for the first time since Jan. 7. Todd has spent most of his time with the Capital City Go-Go, where this season he’s averaging 12.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He only shoots 38.5% from the field and 28.3% from three.
Despite those percentages, he looked good in person last week when he played for the Go-Go against College Park. It will be interesting to see his development moving forward and if he includes more NBA experience this season. The Wizards will be playing a lot more against their young guys and he is one of their best prospects.
It’ll also be worth watching as the Wizards haven’t seen a ton of production from their recent second-round picks overall. Admiral Schofield (2019) is no longer with the organization, while Cassius Winston (2020) has rarely played for them partly due to injuries. Todd (2021) is just getting started, but has intriguing potential due to his size and skill set. It’s not that often that second-round picks come around, but the Wizards are certainly hoping to find one once in a while.
Porzingis will not play Thursday night when the Wizards face the Nets, meaning he will make his Wizards debut after the All-Star break. Their first game back will be a week from Friday at home to Spurs. Gafford, however, is expected to play on Thursday. The Wizards could also get Hachimura back after missing a game, as head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said he could play.
They may also have Thomas Bryant despite it being the second night in a row. He was ruled out of the second game in a row earlier this month due to his ACL rehab. It doesn’t seem like that’s the plan for much longer, unlike Spencer Dinwiddie who spent the entire first half of this season on this type of restriction.