It is easy and enjoyable to get caught up in the optimism surrounding Deni Avdija’s lockdown defense, at times against the NBA’s biggest stars, but the past week for the 20-year old has been humbling. In Washington’s two road losses at New Orleans and San Antonio, Avdija combined for just 5 points on 2-for-11 shooting. In the Wizards’ two wins, in between the losses, at Oklahoma City and Dallas, the second-year player had 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting. The Mavericks had success that other teams have not in attacking Avdija’s defense to the tune of 8-for-10 shooting.
On Monday in San Antonio where the Wizards failed to win their first road game against the Spurs since 1999 despite being 3-point favorites, Avdija was not a fan of the officiating crew and specifically #44 Brett Nansel who whistled him for all three of his personal fouls. On his first foul call, he put his hands on his head in disbelief that Dejounte Murray received a superstar call over minimal contact just 15 seconds after Avdija checked into the game. That may or may not have impacted Avdija missing a layup a minute later matched up in isolation against Murray on the other end of the court where maybe he thought he could earn the same foul call, but was not as fortunate.
On his second foul call, Nansel bailed out Keita Bates-Diop early in the second quarter for a reverse layup attempt from well under and past the basket where Avdija made minimal contact in legal guarding position. By the fourth quarter when Avdija had to play help defense at the rim before recovering back to his man, again Bates-Diop (this time finishing with an and-1), all the Israeli could do was throw up his arms in dejection. It is too small of a sample size to say definitively whether Avdija’s flashback to his tumultuous rookie season of getting called for every touch foul impacted the rest of his game, but anyone who has played basketball can understand the carryover confidence effect.
Deni Avdija pleading with the officials that he's already been called for 2 bad foul calls pic.twitter.com/hT7KVVNrwp
— Neil Dalal (@NeilDalal96) November 30, 2021
“That kind of wavers at times,” head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said about Avdija’s ability to have short-term memory after questionable calls. “It’s human nature when you feel like you’re not fouling someone and they call it. You can’t dwell on it, they’re not changing [the call] so figure it out, understand what went wrong, try not to repeat that, but you got to play through it.”
The Wizards and Avdija will look to bounce back with a two-game homestand against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers before a road back-to-back against the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers over the next week.