Wizards improve 3-point shooting and other observations from preseason loss

Wizards improve 3-point shooting and other observations from preseason loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 113-108 on Tuesday night in their penultimate preseason game. Here are five observations from what went down…

Better from 3

The Wizards were hoping to play much better on both 3-point lines after what happened against the Knicks on Saturday when they made five threes and allowed New York to hit 24 of them. 3-point defense, in particular, was a big point of emphasis by head coach Wes Unseld Jr. in recent practices, as he thought their own shot selection was fine for the most part.

The good news is the team responded on offense as the Wizards got their threes to fall. They doubled their last game total by halftime, with 10 threes in the first half. Washington shot 17-for-43 (39.5%) overall from long range.

The Raptors, though, made 15-for-35 (42.9%) from deep. And that was without Fred VanVleet on the floor.

Kuzma, KCP showed out

Of the three players the Wizards got from the Lakers in the Russell Westbrook trade, Montrezl Harrell had been the clear standout through two preseason games. Kyle Kuzma’s shots weren’t falling and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed the first game due to a dental procedure.

Harrell played well again with 17 points and two blocks, but Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope were also able to shine through. Both players came out hot with four 3-pointers apiece in the first half. Kuzma had a game-high 24 points (8-12 FG, 6-8 3PT) in the game along with seven rebounds. Six threes are a lot; only Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans have made six-plus threes in games for the Wizards in the last two seasons. Caldwell-Pope finished with 15 points (5-8 3PT) and two blocks.

Avdija and Gafford showed more

The Wizards saw some good signs from two of their best young players: Deni Avdija and Daniel Gafford. Avdija, playing in his second preseason game, did an excellent job moving the ball on offense. He helped improve the team’s ball movement with swing passes and timely drive-and-kicks. On one of the Wizards’ smoothest offensive plays, he made the extra pass to Kuzma who sank a three. Avdija also had a crisp sidestep around a screen to knock down a three of his own in the second half.

Gafford showed more as a rebounder. A member of the Wizards front office recently remarked to NBC Sports Washington the team is hoping to see more from him on the boards. Gafford acted quickly on that with 17 rebounds against the Raptors, which would have set a new career-high if this were the regular season. Gafford also had 14 points and a block.

Barnes looks really good

This may be an obvious statement given he was the fourth overall pick just a few months ago, but Scottie Barnes of the Raptors is very impressive to watch in person. Who knows if he will end up a superstar, or even a star, but Toronto appears to have gotten themselves a good one. 

First of all, he’s huge. Perhaps that could have been gleaned by his monster combine numbers, but he is not built like your average 20-year-old rookie. He stood nearly as tall as the Wizards’ big men with a bigger upper body than all of them. Keep in mind he’s a wing, who can take the ball coast-to-coast and defend guards like Beal. Barnes helped limit Beal to seven points on 1-for-11 shooting.

Barnes had nine points, seven rebounds and a block. His feel for the game really stood out, as he made a lot of smart plays including a touch pocket pass to Precious Achiuwa on the fastbreak that required a ton of spin to execute.

Bertans is fine

The Wizards’ open practice on Monday in Baltimore featured Bertans tweaking his right calf early and sitting out most of the showcase. Bertans was seen getting treatment on the sideline, but Unseld Jr. later described it as minor. Still, it was a bit concerning considering that’s the same injury that ended his season last year.

Bertans, though, was able to go through their full shootaround on Tuesday and then play against the Raptors. That was positive and so was Bertans’ performance. He went 3-for-7 from three after making just 2-for-12 in his first two preseason games.

The Wizards play their final preseason game on Friday night at the New York Knicks. Only one more warm-up, then it’s go-time in Toronto.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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