The Washington Wizards lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 127-110 on Friday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down…
In the final game of a stretch in which they played 17 of 23 games on the road, the Wizards looked like a team that ran out of gas on Friday night. They were overmatched from tip-off, going down by as many as 27 points in what amounted to their second straight loss.
It was the type of game the Wizards will soon hope to forget. They have another two days off before their next game but may wish that weren’t the case so they had a chance to move past it.
The Wizards have played 23 of their 40 games so far this season away from DC but will start catching up this week. They play five of their next six games at Capital One Arena, beginning with the Pelicans on Monday.
With Friday’s loss, the Wizards fell to 17-23 on the season. Monday will be Game 41, marking the halfway point.
The Thunder are young and learning how to win, but they do three things well. They defend, they push the pace and they score off turnovers. The Wizards fell right into their hands in this one, committing 20 turnovers which Oklahoma City cashed in for 32 points on the other end. That was uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered this game eighth in turnovers (13.9/g) and seventh in points off turnovers allowed (15.8/g).
OKC set an early tone with swarming defense, consistently walling off would-be drives by the Wizards. They created havoc and once they got possession, it was off to the races. The Wizards had trouble stopping the Thunder in the halfcourt as well. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (30 points) is the best in the game at driving to the rim and, just like in the first meeting between these teams, Washington couldn’t stay in front of him.
Kuzma was solid
The Thunder’s defense was suppressive enough to limit most players on the Wizards to subpar nights. Kyle Kuzma, though, was one guy who found a rhythm. He scored 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting to go along with seven assists, five rebounds and a steal. The lone blemish was six turnovers, the third time in the last four games he’s had at least five of them.
Kuzma, though, was one of the few Wizards to find daylight off the dribble and he was mostly sharp with his finishes around the rim. Kuzma had a couple of baskets where he sank it in off the glass from a tough angle with a defender all over him. He also had an excellent turnaround pass to find Daniel Gafford for a layup on the baseline. It was a rough game for the Wizards, but at least one guy had it going.
Turnovers and the resulting points were the stories of this game, but 3-point shooting also played a factor. The Wizards were cold from deep, shooting 7-for-24 (29.2%), while the Thunder were hot, knocking down 17-of-37 (45.9%). It’s never going to be easy to win a basketball game with that type of imbalance in threes.
Only five players made threes for the Wizards compared to nine players for the Thunder. The 24 attempts for Washington were tied for their fourth-fewest in a game this season. OKC has a lot of length and speed on the perimeter, but the Wizards also seemed to go away from the three at times when it wasn’t working.
Searching for a spark
The Wizards were down 20 points in the first quarter, then saw that deficit grow to 27 in the second quarter. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr., of course, was n’t happy about that and you could tell by his rotation about him. Looking for someone to change the energy, he expanded his bench to bring Goodwin and Will Barton into the mix for the first time in a while.
Neither guy had been playing meaningful minutes since Delon Wright came back right before Christmas, even in games Bradley Beal was out, as he was for this one. Goodwin made the more noticeable impact, especially on the defensive end. He had a few deflections and generally did a nice job trailing ball-handlers. It was enough for him to start the second half in place of Gafford. But the Wizards couldn’t fully stop the bleeding even with him out there. It just wasn’t their night.