Wizards take care of undermanned Rockets in John Wall’s return as Deni Avdija learns a subtle lesson

Feb 16, 2021 | Deni Avdija

The Washington Wizards are on their second winning streak of the season after a 131-119 victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday. The road team was very shorthanded without Christian Wood, Victor Oladipo, Eric Gordon, and PJ Tucker so Washington was able to pull away by the second half. In 20 minutes off the bench, Deni Avdija had five points on 2-for-4 shooting and three rebounds.

The headline for the night was known before the game even tipped off. After 10 seasons of playing in DC at Capital One Arena (and formerly Verizon Center), John Wall made his return for the first time as the opposition. With Houston undermanned, Wall had the green light and kept things competitive in the first half with 22 points and seven assists. The five-time All-Star was attacking the paint at will regardless of who was defending him, but felt he wasn’t getting the same foul calls in the second half as the Wizards began loading up on him. Wall finished with 29 points on 10-for-26 shooting plus 11 assists in 35 minutes and despite the loss, he continues to show Washington that he can still play at a high level.

“He was adamant in telling us he’s going to be back to himself and it seems that way,” Bradley Beal recalled during John Wall’s long rehab with the Wizards. “He still has that quick burst of speed, he’s still athletic, he’s still strong, it’s all there. He’s putting it together and I’m definitely happy, couldn’t be nothing but happy for him. Especially with what he’s been through the last two years, you wish that on nobody. So to be able to see him come on the other side of it with his head up and playing at his highest level as he can, it’s great. He’s still a tough guard.”

The Rockets are one of the better defensive teams in the NBA but with so many key injuries, the Wizards were able to score effortlessly. Bradley Beal had a typical showing with 37 points on 14-for-24 shooting, but he was not alone as Washington had seven players score in double figures. That included Davis Bertans who had his best shooting game of the season with 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting including 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. The $80 million free agent signing said he felt a good game coming based on his pre-game routine, but was not sure how to articulate why exactly he felt that way. Regardless, the Wizards know they need Bertans to dig out of a still steep hole at 8-17.

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

“It’s always great to have everybody, coaches, teammates trusting in me regardless if I am making the shots or not, but the way I responded I tried to fight, help the team any other way,” Davis Bertans explained. “I get the looks, I take them but make sure if I don’t make those threes, I can help the team any way I can on both ends of the floor. Setting screens, trying to box out, rebound, help, whatever.”

Washington desperately needs the energy Garrison Mathews and Moe Wagner bring to the starting unit so Deni Avdija’s tenure off the bench could continue for the forseeable future as he continues his day-by-day development into a future full-time starter. After Wall blew by him earlier in the game, Avdija had better luck the next time around by staying in front of the speedy point guard without fouling to force a difficult layup attempt. The ninth overall pick would then run the floor and drain his lone three of the game.

At times this season, the 20-year old has been victimized by officials for so-so foul calls and Avdija spoke to that idea just last week. At the end of the game after an unecessary attempted pass from Rui Hachimura to Avdija that the latter did not expect resulting in a turnover, Avdija compounded the mistake by being overly aggressive for no reason, picking up his fifth foul. Whether it was a foul or not, Avdija certainly did not think it was, the rookie began arguing with official Marc Davis with 1.3 seconds left. The conversation lingered to the point that Beal told the rookie to ‘shut up’ from the bench as there was no reason to make matters worst by picking up a technical foul. There have been and will continue to be plenty of teaching moments for Avdija throughout his rookie campaign and on Monday it was understanding time and score.

Washington will finish their five-game homestand by welcoming the Denver Nuggets (15-11) on Wednesday night as the Wizards go for their first three-game winning streak since December 2018.

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