Wizards put together complete effort as Deni Avdija continues incremental development

Jan 12, 2021 | Deni Avdija

Reeling off of the unfortunate news that center Thomas Bryant would miss the rest of the 2020-21 season with a partially torn left ACL, the Washington Wizards responded with their best game of the season. In a 128-107, coast-to-coast victory over the now 7-4 Phoenix Suns, the Wizards proved they are still capable of competing in every game even without Bryant or Russell Westbrook who will be sidelined for at least this week with left quad soreness first endured in training camp and re-aggravated last week in Philadelphia. Sporting a fresh haircut, Deni Avdija scored six points on 3-for-6 shooting in 20 minutes to go with five rebounds.

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

“This is our best, complete game of the season,” Scott Brooks summarized.

Entering Monday’s game, the Wizards had the worst defense in the NBA allowing 122.7 points per game. Part of those struggles stems from allowing opponents to shoot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc, second-worst in the NBA. A mix of better perimeter defense as well as shots simply not falling for the road team led to the Suns shooting a miserable 4-for-27 (14.8 percent) from beyond the arc, well below their season average of 38.2 percent (ninth-best in the NBA). Holding Phoenix to 107 points for the game, the Wizards held the Suns to just 15 points in the first quarter and 42 points in the first half, racing off to a big lead and not looking back.

Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

“We were active, but they did miss some open threes,” Brooks assessed. “We can’t take credit for everything. They missed some open shots, but I thought our offense helped our defense. We’re taking care of the ball and we had good proper spacing. We took good shots and that allows you to get back in transition. They didn’t get a lot of transition points and that’s how we want to play.”

Coming off of his first of many career nights and some celebratory sightseeing, Deni Avdija was not as much of a focal point on Monday. The rookie will certainly take the victory and welcome the experience that each game and day in the NBA brings. Early in the game, Avdija was humbled by a classic Chris Paul fadeaway mid-range jump shot despite solid defense. Offensively, the rookie continued to take what the defense gave him, rarely forcing anything. Avdija took advantage of a four-inch edge on Devin Booker by backing him down in the post to get chances at the rim and then guided the ball into the basket on a half-court lob from Bradley Beal in transition.

“He’s doing a good job,” Bertans began when asked about Avdija’s progress. “He’s still learning, it’s a learning curve coming from Europe especially at his age. It’s not easy. You can see that he’s still making mistakes, but as long as he learns from those mistakes and improves every game, down the stretch he’s going to help us more and more.”

Washington will look to build off of their first home win when they host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday before a one-game road trip on Friday in Detroit. Both Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans spoke to the fact that the Wizards cannot get complacent with one good win, especially given their 3-8 record.

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