Wizards’ defense costs them another winnable game as Deni Avdija sees limited playing time

Jan 7, 2021 | Deni Avdija

On a night that Bradley Beal scores a career-high 60 points, tying the franchise record set by Gilbert Arenas on Agent Zero’s birthday itself, the Washington Wizards failed to lock in on defense, again. Despite blowing a 21 point third-quarter lead, the Philadelphia 76ers were again victorious in a rematch of the season opener, defeating the Wizards 141-135. Deni Avdija had his worst statistical game of the season with just one point and three fouls in 16 minutes of play.

Bradley Beal EPA-EFE/Rob Carr

“I’m pissed off, I’m mad,” Beal said about the loss despite his individual scoring. “I don’t count any of my career-highs that have been in losses. I don’t give a damn. You can throw it right out the window with the other two or three I had. I just want to win.”

One might think that defense cannot get much worse than Seth Curry shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from deep in the first quarter. As the late Flip Saunders said, “don’t ever think it can’t get any worse, because it can. There’s no question, it can.” Washington surrendered a whopping 49 points in the second quarter as Philadelphia was 18-for-22 from the floor, 82 percent for an entire quarter. After holding Joel Embiid to a single point on 0-for-6 shooting in the first quarter, the All-NBA center finished with 37 points on 11-for-14 shooting including 3-for-4 from deep over the final three quarters.

Russell Westbrook EPA-EFE/Rob Carr

“It don’t make no damn sense for us to give up 50 points in a quarter on 1 through 15,” Beal expressed about the second quarter. We gave up 50 points in a quarter. That’s unheard of. We can’t win a game like that and Russ came in [the locker room] expressing that at halftime. We cannot win games, giving up 50 points in a quarter no matter who’s on the floor, me included. We have to bear down, that’s just coming down to defense and guarding, understanding personnel, understanding what guys are capable of doing. That’s where we pretty much lost the game.”

For the second straight game, Avdija has been left on the bench for the fourth quarter. Brooks even opted to start Davis Bertans over Avdija to start the second half. Even though Avdija unluckily gave up a 3-pointer on good ball rotation by the 76ers, he showed a flash of his solid defense again with a block on Joel Embiid. The rookie played more solid disciplined defense on Tobias Harris when the veteran tried driving and drawing contact. Similar to Isaac Bonga who has not played meaningful minutes in four straight games, Avdija’s defense is not being rewarded with playing time when Washington needs it the most.

Scott Brooks EPA-EFE/Rob Carr

“Everybody has to be ready,” Brooks vaguely explained when asked about Avdija and Bonga’s lack of playing time without truly answering the question. “Deni’s a good player. He hasn’t played well tonight. Rui didn’t play well tonight either. Not gonna go away from them, but they’re not gonna get their normal minutes, either. We got Deni and DB [Davis Bertans] at those minutes. Those are pretty good guys at the 3 and they both play a little bit of 4. Everybody has to be ready.”

Washington will end the road trip in Boston on Friday starting a back-to-back that will finish on Saturday vs. the Miami Heat in D.C. Expect Russell Westbrook, who dislocated a finger on his right hand late in the game, to miss at least one of those games as part of the Wizards’ load management plan. Immediately after the game, Westbrook was unsure if the dislocation would force him to miss time.

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