The debut of the Wizards’ “Cherry Blossom” City Edition jersey seemingly lost a little luster before the game started. Bradley Beal (health and safety protocols) and Kristaps Porzingis (left groin strain) were both ruled out against the Dallas Mavericks along with Delon Wright and Taj Gibson. The short-handed Wizards came into the game as 6-point underdogs at home.
But Kyle Kuzma saved the night with a jaw-dropping performance. He put up 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists to power the Wizards to a 113-105 win over the Dallas Mavericks. He did it on an efficient 14-of-26 from the field. His 36 points match his highest-scoring performance with Washington. When Kuzma was asked what was working for him tonight, he answered simply.
“Everything,” he said.
He added a “just playing” after. But everything did seem to work for Kuzma, especially in the second half. He had 18 of his 36 points in the last 17 minutes of the game, including the two impressive triples in the video below.
Both those shots came in the crucial stretch of the game. After the Mavericks went up by 14 in the first quarter, the Wizards fought back to draw pretty much even during the rest of the first half. Kuzma hit a three to finally give the Wizards a 79-77 lead with 4:59 left in the third. Then, Washington took off on a 24-9 run and their lead ballooned to 14 points midway through the 4th quarter.
After the unit helped take the lead, Wes Unseld Jr. rolled with the lineup of Kuzma-Rui Hachimura-Jordan Goodwin-Will Barton-Daniel Gafford through the rest of the game. Hachimura efficiently poured in 23 points of his own off the bench, including this very nice finish off a Kuzma pass.
Daniel Gafford registered a double-double and Will Barton hit big shots. But Jordan Goodwin continues to stick out. Despite only scoring two points, Goodwin had a huge impact on the game. His ability to get over screens and jump on ball handlers was important during Washington’s comeback. He also dished out six assists. It’s starting to feel like the Wizards uncovered a gem in the Saint Louis product.
“It’s pretty obvious that he’s really hungry to play basketball in the NBA,” said Kuzma of Goodwin. “He comes out there every night and plays as hard as he can. So it’s just good when you can see teammates, their struggles, where they come from, and how they just seize the moment. He’s a prime example of that and it’s beautiful.”
Washington’s defense held the Mavericks to a 104 offensive rating. Not only is that Dallas’s second-worst offensive output this season, but also it’s Washington’s third-straight game with a defensive rating of 110 or lower. Two of those games came against top offenses and should provide some hope for the unit going forward.
The Wizards impressively corralled Luka Doncic. They held the NBA’s leading scorer to 22 points on 8-of-21 shooting from the field and forced him into 5 turnovers. In selling out to stop Doncic, Washington allowed former Wizard Spencer Dinwiddie to go off. He put up 33 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists in his return to D.C.
Washington is now 6-6 on the season. This win marks their second two-game winning streak of the year. They will look for their first three-game win streak when they take on the surprising Utah Jazz on Saturday at home.