Wizards fumble 23-point lead in blowout loss to Rockets

Wizards fumble 23-point lead in blowout loss to Rockets originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Wizards lost to the Rockets 115-97 in Houston on Monday night. Here are five observations from what went down…

Rough night

The worst loss of this Wizards season was objectively their 35-point collapse against the Clippers in late January. That one was an all-timer. But Monday’s loss in Houston is certainly up there among the most crushing defeats Washington has endured this season, which has featured a decent share of them.

In fact, it technically included an even bigger points swing. They led by 23 points in this game, only to see the Rockets flip that around and lead by 20 in the fourth quarter. That was a 43-point reversal. 

Christian Wood was the main reason for it, as he dominated the Wizards to the tune of 39 points and 10 rebounds. He shot an absolutely ridiculous 8-for-9 from three.

The Wizards are now 30-41 on the year, meaning this is their fourth straight non-winning season. They have dropped seven of their last eight.

Porzingis stayed hot

One game after he took over in the fourth quarter against the Lakers, Kristaps Porzingis once again had a big night. He had 22 points on 7-for-18 shooting and many of them were dunks. He nearly tore off the rim on a series of slams both in the halfcourt and on the fastbreak. Porzingis also had 13 rebounds and six blocks, five of which came in the first half. That was just one block short of his career-high.

Porzingis shot 8-for-8 from the free-throw line and has helped the Wizards quite a bit in that area. He came into this game leading the team with 7.7 free throw attempts per game. Before he debuted, the Wizards were having some trouble getting to the line and were openly complaining about it in press conferences. He’s helped shift the narrative very quickly.

Rui cooked early

With Kyle Kuzma out due to injury, Rui Hachimura got the start at power forward and he absolutely thrived in that role, at least in the first half. Hachimura had 10 points in his first six minutes en route to a solid night of 16 points and eight boards. He shot 7-for-13 from the field and 2-for-5 from three. Hachimura’s 3-point shooting continues to be a bright spot for the Wizards as this was his 13th time making multiple threes in a game, a new career-high. That’s especially impressive considering he’s only played in 31 games.

Hachimura, though, faded in the second half to only score two points after halftime. That has been an issue for him previously in his career. On one hand it’s great he has a tendency to start out hot, but finding a way to sustain that as the game goes on is one of the next steps for him as he continues to develop as a scorer.

Avdija the playmaker

As the Wizards focus on player development as they close out the 2021-22 season, Deni Avdija showed some positive signs as an on-ball playmaker in this game. He had seven points, nine rebounds and four assists, including a series of crisp and creative passes. They were the types of plays that made Avdija such a highly-touted prospect coming into the 2020 draft.

He has unique abilities as a ball-handler and passer at 6-foot-9 that he hasn’t often been able to utilize at the NBA level. But on Monday, he showed what he can do and in a variety of situations. Avdija threw a lob to Daniel Gafford in a pick-and-roll, a shovel pass to Gafford for a baseline layup and later pushed the pace off a rebound and dumped it off to Porzingis for a dunk. There were other plays where Avdija simply getting the ball up the floor quickly led to good things.

Kuzma out again

The Wizards played their second game without Kuzma, who has been sidelined with right knee tendinitis. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. indicated on Saturday that Kuzma would be ready to return in this game, but that was not the case as the team decided to play it safe after Kuzma continued to feel some discomfort.

Unseld Jr. described Kuzma sitting out on Monday as a matter of just giving him another day as a precaution. The team now has two off-days before they head to Milwaukee to face the Bucks on Thursday. Kuzma has been one of the few constants for the Wizards this season in a year that has been defined by inconsistency and change. His 66 games played are tied for third on the team with Corey Kispert and behind only Avdija (71) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (68). 

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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