How hard it was! Deprived of Bradley Beal just before the meeting, still in quarantine, the Wizards expected to find themselves in difficulty against OKC. Wes Unseld Jr.’s troops had to wait until the very last seconds to secure victory, saved at the end by the Caldwell-Pope – Kuzma duo.
Washington was not leading wide at the break as the Thunder collective managed to come back from a complicated start to turn to +6 at the start of the second quarter following a good passage from Josh Giddey and a dunk from Darius Bazley (36-42). Luguentz Dort’s two 3-point missiles and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s two baskets kept Oklahoma City in the lead until halftime (58-61).
The Giddey-SGA-Dort trio continued their little show until the very end of the third quarter, when the Avdija-Bertans tandem responded to Mike Muscala’s 3-pointer to finally put the Wizards in the lead (97-93) . The fight was still fierce until the end as Oklahoma City took the lead on a 3-pointer from Josh Giddey and was still at +3 4 minutes from the end (109-112).
Kyle Kuzma then fired from afar, but it was then SGA who released two lay-ups to equalize in the last minute (118-118). Kentavious Caldwell-Pope then played Luguentz Dort to plant the 3-point victory, enhanced in stride by a free throw from Kyle Kuzma to secure the victory, on the wire, 122-118.
WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER
– The Wizards still “clutch”. As in their last victory in Orlando, the Wizards have again played with fire! More generally, Washington has developed a real killer spirit in tight money-time, with a 5-point gap or less with 5 minutes remaining, and has already won 17 of its 21 games in this scenario. Kyle Kuzma and KCP have in any case shown great composure to win the bet in the final.
– The KCP feat. “It’s depressing when you have a good defense and someone scores a 3-pointer like that”. Josh Giddey will have a hard time recovering from this Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shot, successful against one of the best defenders in the league on man, Luguentz Dort. The back of the Wizards inherited the ball at the end of possession and superbly faked his evening defender to better shift and return his shot, with the help of the board.
✅ Kyle Kuzma. Building on the momentum of his previous outings in 2022, position 4 was his team’s offensive leader with 29 points on 12/17 shooting, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. He plants a 3-point at least as important as that of KCP a few moments earlier in the money-time. It is still him who assures the victory with a free throw. It took at least that to compensate for the absence of Bradley Beal.
✅ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. All evening, SGA has been a poison for the Wizards. Even when the latter thought they had done the hardest by moving to 118-114 at the very end of the game, the leader of the Thunder reappeared with two drives that made him finish at 32 points and 8 assists. All that was missing was victory to complete the whole thing.
Washington (21-20): the Wizards will find Orlando, at home this time, this Wednesday evening.
OKC (13-27): the Thunder continues on its way to Brooklyn to face the Nets this Thursday.