Wizards come back to beat Bulls on Kyle Kuzma’s clutch three

Wizards come back, beat Bulls on clutch Kuzma three originally appeared on NBC SportsWashington

WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 100-97 on Wednesday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down…

Back in win column

If the Wizards are to get into the playoffs, they are going to need to better compensate for injuries than they did in the first half of the schedule. Their success has so far run congruent with their health, but injuries happen and they are likely to happen again.

Washington may have taken a positive step in that sense on Wednesday, as they beat the Chicago Bulls despite missing Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford; three members of their starting lineup. Granted, the Bulls were without DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball. Regardless, it was a good sign in Game 42, the first of the second half.

Kyle Kuzma hit the big shot, a go-ahead three with 5.7 seconds left on the clock. He led the way with Beal and Porzingis out, scoring 21 points. Deni Avdija had one of his better games than him with a career-high 20 rebounds along with 9 points and 3 assists.

The Wizards rode a huge third quarter to victory, outscoring the Bulls 41-21 in the frame. It was the biggest advantage, plus 20 points, that the Wizards had in a third quarter this season. Credit to the coaching staff for their adjustments.

The Wizards snapped a three-game losing streak, moving to 18-24 on the season.

Morris went off

The Wizards’ big third quarter turned a 13-point deficit at halftime into a seven-point lead entering the fourth and it was largely keyed by Monte Morris. The veteran point guard dropped 15 points in the frame, a career-high for a single quarter. Morris had 17 points for the game on 7-for-13 shooting in 28 minutes.

At practice the day before, Morris talked about how he wanted to step up amid the team’s recent losing streak. He did just that in this one and gave the Wizards exactly the type of lift they needed. Down their top-two scorers in Beal and Porzingis, Morris gave them an offensive jolt and it made a major difference.

Gibson and Gill stepped up

With Porzingis and Daniel Gafford both out, the Wizards bumped Taj Gibson and Deni Avdija into the starting lineup. Anthony Gill then moved up into a primary backup role. Both Gibson and Gill took advantage of the opportunity on the offensive end. Gibson scored seven quick points in the first quarter and ended up with nine points and eight rebounds. Gill, meanwhile, had a career-high 18 points, including 12 in the first half.

Porzingis and Gafford both being out was an extreme example, but this game gave the Wizards a good look at their second-string big men and maybe at an opportune time. If they decide to buy at the trade deadline and add pieces, they may want to look at their big man depth now that it’s been affected by the promotion of Gafford to the starting lineup. They may feel a little better about that depth after this game.

Barton played some

After not playing at all on Monday against the Pelicans, Will Barton received meaningful minutes for the first time in weeks. That was likely a direct result of all the injuries, of course, but it offered Barton an opportunity to make the case for more playing time aside from practice settings. Barton ended up logging a total of eight minutes, going scoreless on one shot with two rebounds and an assist.

Barton also had a pair of turnovers in his brief time on the floor, one where he was stripped and another where he seemed to lose the ball dribbling into the Bulls’ defense. Those may have been signs of a guy pressing to make something happen, given his situation. Either way, probably not the showing he was hoping for in this one. Maybe he’ll get another shot on Friday.

Injury updates

While the Wizards were without Beal for the third straight game, we should know more about his status moving forward soon. He was originally ruled out for at least a week with plans to be re-evaluated after and it has now been a week. As for Porzingis and Gafford, the injuries are minor but it’s unclear if they could miss Friday’s game. They will likely be evaluated further on Thursday.

Corey Kispert, meanwhile, played in this one but only after being a game-time decision due to lower back soreness. He was in obvious discomfort, having to ice his back when he was out of the game. He also did stretches away from the bench to stay warm when he was off the floor. Kispert, though, was able to give it a go and scored six points in 25 minutes.

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