Wizards bounce back in Kuzma’s return originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Washington Wizards beat the Portland Trail Blazers 126-101 on Tuesday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down…
The split-personality Wizards have been so streaky this season that over the last month, they did not have one instance of winning or losing a singular game. Each time they won or lost, it came in a string of several in a row.
That was until Tuesday night when they bounced back quickly from a loss to the Warriors the night before by beating the Blazers in Portland. Finally, one step back did not come with two or three more. They returned to the win column as they head to Minnesota for their final game before the All-Star break.
The victory over the Blazers gives the Wizards nine wins in 13 games. They are 27-30 on the season, which is one win better than they were through 57 games a year ago.
Kyle Kuzma came back after a four-game absence due to a sprained left ankle and at first, appeared to be rusty from the layoff. He missed his first three shots and had two quick turnovers to begin the game. But after that, he got rolling and made his next six shot attempts, including four threes.
That got Kuzma to halftime with 21 points. He finished the game with 33 points, shooting 11-for-20 overall and 6-for-10 from three, including one from 54 feet to end the third quarter. It was an excellent return for the veteran forward and a nicely timed boost for the Wizards on the second night of a road back-to-back.
In his 1st game back from an ankle injury, Kyle Kuzma missed his 1st three shots but then made six straight. He has 18 pts already in just 12 min. on 4-6 3PT. pic.twitter.com/QObpZdQbWk
— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) February 15, 2023
Could have been worse
The Wizards built a 12-point lead in the first half and got to halftime up nine, but they could have set the stage for an early blowout if it weren’t for a string of turnovers. Washington had 10 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of this game. That’s quite a few considering they averaged 14.1 per game on the season.
The Wizards, though, cleaned it up after that. After committing 11 turnovers in the first half, they only had three in the second half. That allowed them to remain in control and coast to victory. It also helped they didn’t let the Blazers light them up from three. The Wizards have surrendered some massive leads lately because of lapses in their 3-point defense, including a 20-point lead to the Blazers at home on Feb. 3.
Porzingis kept it rolling
Kristaps Porzingis is now approaching the All-Star break in what is shaping up to be possibly the best season of his career. He was brilliant once again with 28 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. He shot 10-for-15 from the field and 7-for-7 from the line, as Portland had no answer for his size and shooting ability.
This was Porzingis’ 33rd game this season with 20 or more points, which is a new career-high. Again, it’s not even the All-Star break yet. He’s also averaging a career-high 23.0 points per game while shooting a career-best 48.9% from the field. What a season he has had so far.
The Wizards were able to work around foul trouble for both Porzingis and Daniel Gafford, an unenviable task given how important those two have been as a combo for Washington this season. Both guys were sitting with four fouls apiece midway through the third quarter. It was not ideal against a Blazers team with a bunch of talented scorers.
But the Wizards made do with Taj Gibson filling in their place. He made a couple of baskets, including a corner three, and provided enough resistance in the paint for the Wizards to get by unscathed. That’s what he’s there for; insurance. The Wizards, though, will certainly hope they don’t have to use that card often moving forward.