Raptors shoot lights out against Wizards defense as Deni Avdija shows subtle confidence

Feb 11, 2021 | Deni Avdija

The Washington Wizards came into Wednesday’s game hosting the Toronto Raptors with just one win streak this entire season, in early January against Minnesota and Brooklyn, and that remained the case leaving Capital One Arena on a snowy night in the nation’s capital. The Wizards’ poor defense reared its ugly head again as the Raptors shot lights out on their way to a 137-115 victory. For the second straight game, Avdija came off the bench where he totaled nine points, seven rebounds, and three assists in 27 minutes.

Toronto’s shooting slash was 53 percent from the field, 59 percent from beyond the arc, and 87 percent from the free-throw line. It is no coincidence that opposing teams have ‘get right’ shooting games against the Wizards who again blamed their woes on poor closeouts on three-point shooters despite that being on the scouting report. Pascal Siakam had just 23 three-pointers on 27.1 percent shooting through 21 games this season yet was 3-for-4 from deep against Washington.

“It’s the defense, lost by 20,” Bradley Beal stated simply as he looked at the score on the jumbotron from his Zoom post-game availability. “We do come in knowing who we’re playing, what’s going on, personnel. Like they didn’t have any bigs. We knew what was going on, but for whatever reason, it didn’t translate.”

Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

Following a 0-for-5 shooting performance from beyond the arc on Monday in Chicago, Avdija missed both of his three-point attempts against the Raptors in the first half. Despite solid looks that the Wizards are happy for him to take, none of them fell, but that did not stop the 20-year old from having the confidence to keep shooting. In the second half, Avdija made half of his four attempts from three including one that cut the deficit to six with three minutes left in the third quarter. After the loss, the ninth overall pick returned to the court to get up extra shots.

“I like the fact that he came back and took those open threes,” Scott Brooks explained. “He made two out of the six, but last [game] he didn’t make any. But a lot of times when you don’t make any the night before, you feel like you’re not ready to take that next one. But he came in with confidence. Deni’s going to be a good player, but he has to continue to work on his game like he has.”

Without rookie mini-camp, Summer League, or a normal training camp, it is hard to expect rookies to be able to play mistake-free basketball especially on defense and especially at the wing position where there is so much talent in the NBA on a nightly basis. Davis Bertans explained it well the previous game that Avdija knows the Euro League players well and he may know the top 50 NBA players fairly well, but it is impossible to know the tendencies of the other 400 NBA players this early in a career without the needed repetition and experience. Although frustrating without winning results now, the Wizards envision Avdija blossoming into an all-around great player as his familiarity increases.

“He’s at the right pace right now,” Brooks assessed. “It’s a challenging league from that position. A lot of quick players and a lot of attack players. He’s doing a better job, he’s fouling a little too many times, but a lot of times he’s not getting in the right position. Those are things he’s going to improve on as he gets more experience.”

Washington will look to rebound against the New York Knicks on Friday after getting the first game after a long road trip out of the way, which Alex Len described as one of the more difficult tasks in the NBA.

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