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Smith's top three performances of the season so far
In his 10th year in the league, Ish Smith has been a steadying force for the Wizards high-flying offense. He’s played mostly off the bench, facilitating a reserve unit with remarkable consistency, and has elevated his game when the Wizards called on him to play a bigger role. Smith’s season has included five 20-point games, 13 games with at least seven assists, 13 games with multiple steals, a new career-high in points scored, an historically efficient shooting performance and even “MVP” chants from the Wizards crowd. Here is a look at Smith’s best three games of the season so far.
3. January 6, 2020 vs. Boston27 PTS / 4 REB / 4 AST / 12-18 (.667) FG
One game after setting a career high against Denver – and with the Wizards missing some of their most important contributors due to injury – Smith came off the bench to score a game-high 27 points on 12-18 (.667) from the field. The game was low scoring, a 99-94 win for Washington, but Smith could not be stopped in the third and fourth quarters. He played the final 13:17 of the game, scoring 16 of his 27 points. In the fourth quarter alone, he shot 6-8 (.750) from the field and accounted for all but three of the Wizards’ field goals. The Washington crowd showered Smith with “MVP” chants as he attempted a pair of free throws late in the game looking to seal the win over Boston. The performance was his sixth consecutive game scoring in double figures and is one of his five 20-point games this season.
“If it were a two-game season, I would have to agree with the crowd: MVP,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said postgame. “And he's bringing back the mid-range. He plays. Man, that guy, he's hard to stay in front of. He changes direction, his pace, speed, it's hard—it's hard to stay in front of him.”
2. December 20, 2019 at Toronto26 PTS / 9-9 (1.000) FG / 4-4 (1.000) 3P
Coming off a game in which he scored just six points, Smith bounced back with the most efficient game of his career and one of the most efficient games in recent NBA history. He scored 26 points, shooting 9-9 (1.000) from the field and 4-4 (1.000) from 3-point range, becoming the first point guard since Jarrett Jack in 2014 to make at least nine field goals in a game without a miss and the first Wizards guard to ever accomplish the feat.
Smith’s night started early. He came off the bench with five minutes to play in the first quarter, scoring eight points on 3-3 (1.000) from the field before the frame’s end, but he saved his best work for the fourth quarter. Washington trailed by as many as 18 in the game and 11 in the fourth before going on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to two with 6:33 remaining. Just over a minute later, Smith hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 107. After the Raptors answered on the other end, Smith again tied the game, this time at 109 with 3:43 left in the game. Smith played all 12 minutes of the fourth, scoring nine points on 3-3 from the field. The Raptors nailed threes on consecutive possessions and hit free throws down the stretch to win the game.
“Winning and losing, there’s no moral victories,” Smith said postgame. “But this is something you think about when you’re 40 years old and in your rocking chair with your wife and your kids (you think about). Right now it’s turn the page and try to figure what we can do and how we can get better moving forward.”
1. January 4, 2020 vs. Denver32 PTS / 3 REB / 8 AST / 3 STL / 15-24 (.625) FG
In what was one of the most memorable games of the Wizards’ season so far, a 14-point win over the Nuggets, Ish Smith led the way. On the second night of a back-to-back, Smith scored a career-high 32 points off the bench, 23 of which came in the second half, and helped spark a 21-4 run in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Smith finished the night plus-18, was one assist shy of his season high and registered three steals.
“When you just get into one of those rhythms (while) playing you're not even really thinking about it, you're just kind of playing,” Smith said. “You're just kind of playing with a rhythm and a flow. The good thing about it is none of it was out of the ordinary. It was in the flow of the offense, the way we want to play. We want to play with pace, get the ball from side to side, run up into pick-and-rolls.”
With the Wizards down seven players due to injury, including leading scorers Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Rui Hachimura, Smith and the reserves were called upon to carry a much heavier burden. The team’s 92 bench points were the second-most since 1970-71, when the NBA began recording starters and bench players and the most since 1977 when the Warriors scored 94 bench points (per Elias Sports Bureau).
Smith scored just two points in the first quarter, but was the driving force of the Wizards’ offense in a back-and-forth second half. He scored 10 points on 5-7 (.714) from the field in the third and added another 13 in the fourth, helping swing a two-point deficit to a 17-point lead in the final 9:33 of the game.
"Ish was on fire,” Brooks said. “He had so many ESPN highlight crossovers and makes, change of directions. He's a hard cover. He plays with pace…He obviously played out of his mind tonight, but that's how he plays. He plays fast, he plays hard. He plays for his team and he made good plays throughout the game.”
“Ish was amazing tonight,” Troy Brown Jr. said postgame. “It was crazy, it was ridiculous. Literally, it was like give Ish the ball and get out the way. At that point, all I was focused on was rebounding and just making sure we were getting rebounds and getting stops.”