With Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, and Kristaps Porzingis all sidelined for the night, the Wizards couldn't keep pace with the Magic down the stretch. Corey Kispert dropped a career-high 27 points on nine made threes, but the Magic came away with a 116-109 win.
It would be reasonable to be concerned about offensive creation with the Big 3 out of the lineup, but the Wizards had no problems finding offense in the opening three quarters. Daniel Gafford was active around the rim, grabbing offensive boards and getting second-chance points. Kendrick Nunn provided an offensive spark off the bench. But most of all, Kispert was hot enough to burn a hole through the sun.
On the Wizards' first possession of the game, Kispert caught the ball deep on the left wing. He noticed his defender was giving him a few inches of space, and that's all he needed. Kispert pulled up from 30 feet and cashed it. After that first one went through the net, the rim looked as wide as the ocean. He made his next two threes (a spot-up in transition and a 30-footer off the catch), and it was on from there.
Kispert had 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting from deep at halftime. As good as Kispert was, the Magic had a couple of guys that were dominating in the first half, as well. Markelle Fultz and Paolo Banchero had 17 points apiece on a combined 13-of-21 shooting from the field. The Wizards held a 63-60 advantage going into the halftime break.
Washington looked like a team on a mission to start the third quarter. Deni Avdija got the scoring started with a hard drive and soft floater on the opening possession of the half. And once again, Kispert found his rhythm, knocking down two threes in the opening two and a half minutes of the quarter, setting a new career-high for threes in a game. At that point, Kispert was 8-of-11 from deep, and the Wizards had kicked off the second half on a 13-0 run, taking a 16-point lead.
Both teams exchanged runs for the remainder of the third quarter, but ultimately, the Wizards held an 11-point lead going into the fourth and final frame. That's when everything changed.
Timely shots from Cole Anthony and a tricky zone defense from the Magic helped boost Orlando to an 11-0 run to start the fourth quarter, tying the game at 96. The Wizards battled hard, but without their Big 3, they couldn't pick apart the zone at a high enough rate to keep pace with the Magic's offense. After scoring 30+ points in each of the first three quarters, the Wizards only scored 13 in the fourth. Final score: Magic 116, Wizards 109.
"We got a little rattled with the zone defense," said Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. "We were struggling with the open threes. I thought we missed a few and we got a little hesitant... The zone definitely bothered us. It was effective."
For the Wizards, Delon Wright was magnificent, scoring 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field to go along with nine boards and four assists. Kispert led the way with a career-high 27 points on a scorching 9-of-14 shooting from deep. He also added three rebounds and played a game-high 42 minutes. His nine threes tied the second-most made by an individual in a single game in franchise history.
"To shoot 14 threes in an NBA game, your teammates gotta be looking for you and making a lot of plays for you," said Kispert. "A lot of my stuff didn't come off the dribble tonight. So, the credit goes to them for sure for helping me out."