Kristaps Porzingis and Deni Avdija took control of the steering wheel for the shorthanded Wizards on Tuesday night in D.C, leading their squad to a dominant 130-111 win over the Celtics.
Right from the jump, this game was full of up-and-down, high-octane basketball. Both teams were snapping the ball around, running in transition, launching threes, and getting to the rim. The sold-out Capital One Arena was fully engaged, and the energy was palpable.
The Celtics held a slight advantage in the opening minutes behind Jayson Tatum's hot start. He scored nine points in the first four minutes and looked virtually unstoppable. He was flashing every aspect of his game that makes him a candidate for the All-NBA First Team.
Despite Tatum's early impact, the Wizards stayed the course and generated offense at a nice clip. Porzingis was dynamic, scoring the ball from all three levels of the floor and contesting shots on defense. He converted the Wizards' first two field goals of the game and had that look in his eye -- it was about to be a big night.
With 4:07 left in the first quarter, Wizards rookie Johnny Davis confidently stepped into a three on the left wing and cashed it, punctuating a 13-2 run for the Wizards, which gave them a 23-15 lead. That was the play that swung the momentum. Once the Wizards took control of the game, they never let go of the rope. The Celtics would occasionally go on a quick mini-run, but every time the Celtics cracked the door open, the Wizards slammed it shut. Once the lead hit double digits in the second quarter, it would never dip back into single digits.
"Obviously, Tatum got going early," said Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. "We tried to cool him off a bit... I was just proud of our resilience. They made their run. We knew at some point they were gonna amp up the physicality and try to put us back on our heels. We were able to respond, in kind, and keep them at bay."
KRISTAPS PORZINGIS' COMPLETE CONTROL OF THE GAME
This was one of Porzingis' most impressive games of the season. From the opening tip to the final horn, he was in utter and complete control on both ends of the floor. He was getting to his spots, punishing mismatches, knocking down seemingly every shot he took, and also being a deterrent around the rim on defense.
Porzingis finished the game with 32 points on 14-of-21 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 shooting from deep to go along with 13 boards, six assists, one block, and one steal.
Perhaps the most awe-inspiring aspect of his performance was his ability to read double teams, see the floor, and hit open guys with perfect passes. When he caught the ball in the mid-post -- where he likes to do most of his damage -- the Celtics were throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him, trying to throw him off his rhythm. Sometimes they would have Jaylen Brown on him. Or maybe Al Horford, or Marcus Smart. Sometimes they would double him immediately, and other times they would bring a delayed double team. None of it mattered. The game looked like it was moving in slow motion for Porzingis.
"A lot of those decisions, I just make instinctively," said Porzingis when asked about his decision-making in the mid-post. "But the main thing I look at is, 'Who is guarding me?' and from that, I can kind of read if they're gonna help more or less. If it's a stronger defender, it's gonna be less of a help... The first read I make is, "Who's the primary defender?' and then go from there."
Of course, the passing isn't nearly as effective without the scoring, and Porzingis is one of the best mid-post scorers on the planet. With just under four minutes left in the game, the Celtics had trimmed the lead down to 13 points and had an inkling of momentum. The Wizards gave the ball to Porzingis at the left elbow and let him go to work. He caught the ball, faced up, noticed the smaller Grant Williams was guarding him, and then used a series of jabs to create enough space to get his shot off. Catching nothing but net, he got the bucket and the foul. That swung all of the juice back in the direction of Washington and put the final nail in the coffin.
DENI AVDIJA'S CAREER NIGHT
Porzingis wasn't the only Wizard to show up and show out. Avdija was a sensational running mate, wreaking havoc on defense and running in transition. He looked as confident as ever, scoring a career-high-tying 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field to go along with 10 boards and five assists.
"I'm just not overthinking," said Avdija when asked what worked for him on Tuesday night. "I just try and make the right decisions. Try and be aggressive. And put in a lot of work. I guess I'm just not thinking -- just playing my game, making plays for others, and I have the ball and it felt great."
The third-year forward is enjoying a beautiful five-game stretch of basketball, where he's averaged 18.4 points on 63.8% shooting from the field and 47.6% shooting from deep to go along with 9.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
Other notable Wizards performers:
- Monte Morris: 19 points and 9 assists
- Corey Kispert: 15 points (3-6 3FG)
- Kendrick Nunn: 12 points in 17 minutes
- Johnny Davis: 7 points and 8 rebounds