Wizards earn thrilling win over Clippers on Jewish Heritage Night

Mar 5, 2021 | Deni Avdija

Even if you are just starting to watch the Washington Wizards for the first time this season, you should know by now that they play their best basketball with their backs up against the wall. On a two-game skid including an inexcusable loss to the Celtics, the Wizards were given a gift with Paul George a late scratch due to dizziness experienced during his pre-game routine. Despite a 16 point deficit late in the first half, Washington fought back for a 119-117 upset of the Los Angeles Clippers to end their first-half schedule. In 25 minutes off the bench, Deni Avdija made both of his shot attempts for four points and seven rebounds.

The Clippers exploded for 39 points ten-and-a-half minutes into the second quarter including a 25-8 run behind 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting for Kawhi Leonard in the frame. Credit the Wizards for not hanging their heads and going into the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak as they responded with a 21-2 run to end the first half and into the second to make things a new ballgame. Starting center Moe Wagner was a game-high +26 in his 19 minutes of play and had an important steal and and-1 finish at the end of the first half for Washington.

Entering the fourth quarter tied at 87, the Wizards as a team with lots of credit to Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija held Kawhi Leonard to 1-for-7 shooting from the field in the second half. That helped the home team build a seven-point lead with 46 seconds left to play, but in nearly deja-vu fashion from the Boston game, the Clippers were right back in it with 3-pointers from Nic Batum and Kawhi Leonard sandwiching a weak foul call against Bradley Beal that gave Batum three free throws allowing Los Angeles to score nine points in just 26 seconds. Despite Russell Westbrook’s abnormally sub-60 percent free throw shooting this season that had the Clippers intentionally fouling the former MVP, the Wizards point guard came through when it mattered most by deflecting a loose rebound to Bradley Beal after a missed Rui Hachimura free throw to seal the game.

Always a multi-cultural celebrating organization and even moreso with Tommy Sheppard’s United Nations constructed roster, the Wizards celebrated Jewish Heritage Night for the first time ever. In previous years they have celebrated Polish heritage in honor of Marcin Gortat, Japanese heritage in honor of Rui Hachimura, as well as German and Greek heritage among others when opposing players Dirk Nowitzki or Giannis Antetokounmpo are in town. Having drafted the first Jewish player in NBA history, the Wizards celebrated with pre-recorded videos from Celtics draft pick and Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Yam Madar, ambassador Gilard Erdan, and Maccabi Tel Aviv players like Omri Casspi shown on the jumbotron.

The Capital One Arena DJ was even playing Maor Edri’s song Deni Avdija. Despite just four points in the game, Avdija continues to have highlights where he is grabbing the ball on the defensive end, in this case off a turnover, and charging to the offensive end all by himself seamlessly and naturally.

The Wizards head into the All-Star break at 14-20 with a tough 38-game second half of the schedule starting Wednesday in Memphis. Their goals of making the playoffs and positioning themselves better than the 7-10 seed play-in tournament are still well within reach, but will require consistent play that has been the team’s Achilles heel for years.


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