Wizards’ defense steps up against Celtics as Deni Avdija continues to flash off the bench

Feb 14, 2021 | Deni Avdija

If you have watched the Washington Wizards enough over the past decade, you know that they have a tendency to play better and up to their opponent’s level following bad losses. That is exactly what happened Sunday afternoon as the home team routed the Boston Celtics. The final score,104-91, was made a lot closer by garbage times sloppiness by Washington but the dominance through three quarters was impressive nonetheless. Deni Avdija finished with just eight points on 2-for-9 shooting but did grab a career-high-tying 10 rebounds in 28 minutes.

It really was not Boston’s day. The early 1 pm tip may have been an adjustment for the road team as the Wizards jumped out to an early lead that they methodically increased over the course of the game. With Jayson Tatum battling early foul trouble, Boston was out of sorts offensively compounded by shots simply not falling. Take away a combined 50 points from Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown and the rest of the Celtics had just 41 points on 12-for-51 shooting. Part of the defensive improvement can be attributed to Garrison Mathews and Moe Wagner injecting energy into the starting lineup.

“I thought we were active on the defensive end,” Scott Brooks assessed. “Garrison [Mathews], Moe [Wagner], I thought they did a great job of guarding their man. Playing, talking communicating, fighting through, playing with toughness, I thought that was a big part of our win.”

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

Despite Davis Bertans moving back to a role off the bench, Avdija did not return to the starting lineup with Mathews getting the nod for the second game in a row. The rookie has continued to welcome the role with complete belief in the coaching staff as the team continues to take the long view on his development as he acclimates to the NBA.

“Run the floor, know the offense, space the floor, make open shots, know when to cut, play make when you do have the opportunity on the weak side,” Brooks listed pre-game when asked what he would like to see Avdija do with the second unit. “Those are things that he’s going to continue to improve on. Takes time.”

The 20-year old very nearly put the 7-foot-5 center Tacko Fall on a poster at the end of the game, which would have been the perfect cherry on top, but it is still easy to see his potential. I have continued to be impressed with Avdija’s ability to facilitate in transition. Much like Russell Westbrook, Avdija has the ability to grab a rebound and bolt to the other end of the court. Much like the rest of the team, Avdija’s three-point shot will eventually start to fall again (he is just 4-for-25 in his last six games), but excelling in the other aspects of the game that are more controllable is key.

The Wizards’ homestand continues with the second game of a back-to-back on Monday night when they welcome John Wall back to D.C. for the first time since the franchise-altering trade in December. Get your popcorn ready for that one.

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