Shorthanded Wizards’ comeback attempts falls short again as Deni Avdija records career-highs

Jan 10, 2021 | Deni Avdija

Less than two minutes into the second night of a back-to-back and the Washington Wizards could not catch a break. Russell Westbrook was kept out with left quad soreness, Bradley Beal was a late scratch because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols due to his close contact with Jayson Tatum on Friday, and Thomas Bryant suffered a left knee injury that will require an MRI on Sunday morning. Washington would go on to lose the game to the reigning Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, but the final deficit was only 128-124 with Deni Avdija catching fire from 3 late in the game. The 20-year old rookie finished with a career-high 20 points in 32 minutes.

For the third straight game, the Wizards fell behind by more than 20 points and were unable to complete a comeback attempt. It was the third quarter where Washington fell behind this time around as Miami clamped down defensively with the Wizards’ lack of firepower. The home team scored just 15 points on 23 percent shooting from the field (6-for-26) and 15 percent from deep (2-for-13). Miami exploded offensively to start the game with 47 points in the first quarter fueled by 9-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc.

Scott Brooks EPA-EFE/Rob Carr

“They were on fire,” Brooks said about the Heat to start the game, no pun intended. “We haven’t been great defensively, but they were making everything that first quarter, they made nine threes out of 12. They were hitting from all over the floor. I thought our guys competed. In the third quarter, we knew they [Miami] were going to step up, that’s what veteran teams do when teams are down in men.”

Following his first and probably not the last rookie hardship with just four points over his last three games in 46 minutes, Avdija responded against the Heat with career-highs in points (20), field goals (7), three-pointers (5), and assists (5). Obviously, without the likes of Westbrook, Beal, and Bryant on the floor there was more opportunity for Avdija. Taking advantage of that opportunity is what will earn the trust and respect of his teammates and coaches more once Washington hopefully gets back to full strength.

“He’s had a tough stretch. It’s part of growing up, just turned 20 last week. It’s growing pains,” Brooks explained about Avdija’s recent stretch before Saturday’s game. I got to be patient, I got to help him through it. He has to understand that he’s going to have to go through it, but you got to enjoy the process of going through it. It’s tough, trust me, I’ve been there before. There’s a lot of nights you don’t sleep and you’re mad and you’re disgusted in yourself. You got to come back the next day and figure out how to get a little bit better and that’s what every young player has to do. Just come back and get a little bit better every day and understand that you’re good enough to be in this league and you’re going to have brighter days ahead and that’s what he’s been doing. He hasn’t played well in the last two or three games and then came back better tonight.”


The homestand continues on Monday with a matchup against the Phoenix Suns. We shall see if Westbrook, Beal, and/or Bryant will be available for the pivotal matchup with Washington sitting at 2-8 with just 62 regular-season games left.

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