Wizards pull off impressive upset over Nets, while Deni Avdija sits in fourth quarter

Jan 4, 2021 | Deni Avdija

The Washington Wizards are 2-0 in 2021 as they have so far successfully turned the page on their 0-5 start to the season in 2020. Their latest victory comes against an impressive Brooklyn Nets team that Scott Brooks describes as ready to win a championship this year. Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant were able to convert offensively late in the game and survived potential game-winning shot attempts from both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. On his 20th birthday, Deni Avdija had just three points on 1-for-4 shooting, a rebound, an assist, a steal, a block, and a turnover, in just 16 minutes of play.

The 23-year old center, Bryant is on an efficient tear in his last three games, totaling 57 points on 26-for-30 shooting. Against Brooklyn, Bryant had 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting and 14 rebounds in 28 minutes. The Nets went small with former Wizard Jeff Green playing center and Washington made them pay with the game-winning basket. Bryant had also grabbed the offensive rebound to set up the drive and dish by Beal as Brooklyn had no one on the floor to block out Washington’s big man. Beal shared after the game that the game-winning roll and bucket came as an adjustment after Bryant did not roll the previous time.

Kevin Durant (R) looks to put up a shot over a defending Washington Wizards center Thomas Bryant (L) EPA-EFE/JASON SZENES

“He’s just growing up and it’s fun to coach him.” Brooks said about Bryant. “He’s emotional. Sometimes last year it was not to our advantage. This year, he’s controlling it. We talked about it, him and I have some things going on that we’re connecting on ways I can control that and channel that because we don’t want to waste what you have in your energy tank on something that you can’t control. I think his growth in that area has helped us and it’s going to help us win a lot of games this year.”

Coming off of his highest offensive scoring game of the season in Minnesota, Avdija played just 16 minutes on Sunday as Davis Bertans (31 minutes) ate up some of the rookie’s minutes. It was the second time in three games Avdija did not see fourth-quarter playing time with Bertans closing the game with the rest of the starters. With Rui Hachimura as Washington’s primary defender on Kevin Durant, the Wizards must have felt they could do without Avdija’s defense in favor of experience and theoretically shooting. The results may justify the means in this instance, but for a team that struggles defensively, Avdija should be getting burn in the final quarter moving forward. It should help the Wizards’ transition defense that surrendered 28 fast-break points to Brooklyn.


“Bad, bad, horrible,” Brooks cut off the question as soon as transition defense was mentioned. “I complained to them throughout all of halftime. I said no more. Take four guys back or five guys back, it’s not worth the five offensive rebounds you get to give up that many transition points.”

The Wizards’ road trip continues on Wednesday with a rematch of the season opener against the 76ers in Philadelphia. Washington has some momentum and has shown they can compete with whomever in the Eastern Conference.

Bradley Beal EPA-EFE/Rob Carr

“We just got to continue to feed of this momentum and keep it going. The positive energy in the locker room has been excellent,” Beal said.

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