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The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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February 26, 2024

Wizards Weekly: Week 13, 14 & 15 (1/18-2/7)

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Across 11 games, the Wizards finished with a 2–9 record, bringing their total to 9–41. Here’s what happened in the last three weeks of Wizards basketball:

With a new Wizards debut, coaching change, winning streak, All-Star recognition and homecoming, it has been an eventful end to January and start to February for Washington’s NBA franchise. Across 11 games, the Wizards finished with a 2–9 record, bringing their total to 9–41. Here’s what happened in the last three weeks of Wizards basketball:

 

Knicks

Week 13 started on Jan. 18 with a road contest against the New York Knicks (33–18). The contest between these Eastern Conference foes marked the first game in a Wizards uniform for newly acquired forward Marvin Bagley III, whom the Detroit Pistons traded away on Jan. 14. Bagley showed out in his debut with 20 points and 11 rebounds, along with a 62.5% shooting percentage. However, his strong effort and Jordan Poole’s 24 points weren’t enough, leading to a 113-109 loss. Guard Jalen Brunson’s 41 points powered New York, along with 21 from Julius Randle and 19 from OJ Anunoby and Dante DiVincenzo. Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. commented on Brunson’s dominant performance, noting difficulties guarding him.

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The game was the finale of the three-game series between the two franchises, in which New York took a 3–0 sweep.

 

Spurs

Washington’s next game came against first-overall draft pick Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs (10–41) on Jan. 20. For the first time in his Wizards career, Bagley led the score with 21 points and 12 rebounds in 36 minutes as a starter. Seven Wizards eclipsed double digits: the five starters, with Corey Kispert and Bilal Coulibaly. San Antonio’s young core, consisting of Devin Vassell, Wembanyama and Jeremy Sochan, propelled them to a 131–127 victory over Washington. Wembanyama led the group with 21 points, though each member of the trio reached 20. The team stats were relatively close, except for the overall shooting percentage, with Washington shooting 6% worse than the Spurs. This game was the first of the season between the two, with the series finale going Washington’s way on Jan. 29.

 

Nuggets

The Wizards’ next game was against the reigning NBA champion Denver Nuggets (35–16) at home on Jan. 21. Considering the opponent, the Wizards kept it reasonably close, but still fell 113–104. No one on the Washington squad had a standout performance, with the Wizards’ highest scorer, Kyle Kuzma, only managing a measly 17 points. On the other hand, MVP candidate Nikola Jokic had a field day against Washington. He had 42 points on a highly efficient 15/20 from the field, 12 rebounds and eight assists, leading his team in all three categories. 

Washington kept the rebounding battle somewhat close, with a 10-rebound difference in favor of the Nuggets. Denver also shot much better from three-point range with a 36.4% clip versus the Wizards’ 29.6%. Denvers’s win clinched them at least a season series tie as the two-game series finale between the two teams occurs on Feb. 22.

 

Timberwolves

The Wizards remained in Washington for their next game against the Minnesota Timberwolves (35–16) on Jan. 24. Washington continued their losing streak in this matchup, falling to the Timberwolves 118–107. Poole had an awful performance, scoring seven points while shooting an inefficient 2/11 from the field. Deni Avdija tried to make up for his efforts by leading the Wizards in scoring with 24 points, six rebounds and six assists. Bagley also had 17 points off the bench. Minnesota’s star duo of Anthony Edwards and Karl Anthony-Towns lifted them toward the win. Edwards had 38 points, while KAT had 27 of his own. 

Washington shot much better than Minnesota from the three-point range with 41.7% compared to the Timberwolves’ 28.1%, in addition to a massive turnover difference of 21-7. Washington will try to split the season series in its finale on Apr. 9.

 

Wes Unseld Jr. 

Before the Jan. 25 matchup against the Jazz, the Wizards changed their bench. Unseld Jr. was relieved of his head coaching duties to take up an advisory role within the front office. In his two-and-a-half-year tenure as Wizards Head Coach, Unseld went 77–130 while failing to make the playoffs. The Wizards’ top coaching assistant, Brian Keffe, has taken on the role of interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

 

Jazz

Brian Keffe’s first game as interim head coach came against the Utah Jazz (26–26) on Jan. 25. His coaching career didn’t get off to the hottest start as Washington fell to Utah 123–108. Only two Wizards put in noticeable performances — Kuzma and Poole — with 26 and 18 points, respectively. Coulibaly struggled to perform for his new head coach; he only scored two points in 29 minutes on the court. While Tyus Jones didn’t contribute a significant amount of points, his playing performance shouldn’t go unnoticed. He got 14 assists with zero turnovers, continuing to solidify himself among the league’s premier passers. The Jazz had a much more team-centric scoring approach than Washington; their leading scorers were Lauri Markkanen, who scored 29, and John Collins, who scored 22. 

A coaching change for Washington still yielded their expected rebounding results, as the Jazz heavily out-rebounded them 52-35. Keffe and company will have another chance to beat the Jazz in the series finale on March 4.

 

Pistons

The Wizards’ next contest on Jan. 27 began with a two-game road trip and a matchup against the only team worse than Washington, the Detroit Pistons (6–43). Coach Keffe got his first win as interim coach with a 118–104 victory. Keffe held high praise for his squads’ defensive efforts when he discussed his first win with the Associated Press.

“This is obviously very cool, and the best part is the way we played defense,” Keefe said. “Two days ago, we talked about having to become a better defensive team, and we did a good job today. There’s a long way to go, but these are the habits we have to build.” 

Kuzma put on a show for his hometown. Born in Flint, MI, he scored a game-leading 30 points while grabbing six rebounds and recording four assists. Poole assisted his efforts with 17 points and Daniel Gifford with 15. On the Detroit side, Bojan Bogdanovic tried his best to propel his Pistons to victory. He scored 30 points, with Cade Cunningham scoring 20 of his own. Former Wizards Danilo Galinari and Mike Muscala didn’t play well against their old team. Galinari didn’t get any playing time, while Muscala went scoreless in four shots from the field. Washington’s win gives them a 2–1 lead in the season series, with the finale coming on March 29.

 

Spurs 

In just his third game, Keffe achieved something Unsled Jr. has yet to do all season — a winning streak. Though the game wasn’t always under Washington’s control, the Wizards were victorious 118-113. With 6:08 left in the game, the Spurs had a 92.6% chance of victory. The Wizards’ final solid minutes lead to their second win in a row. No Wizards player had an outstanding point total, but six surpassed ten points. San Antonio’s Vassell, Wembanyama and Cedi Osman contributed the most, each scoring over 20 points. Despite needing a late comeback, the Wizards played the better overall game, shooting 53.5% from the field and outrebounding the Spurs by nine. The win tied the season series at 1–1.

 

Clippers

The Wizards’ final game of week 14 came against the L.A. Clippers (34–15) on Jan. 31. L.A.’s 125–109 victory ended Washington’s win streak. Kuzma and Coulibaly were the only noticeable performers, with 27 and 19 points respectively. The Clippers still managed to dominate while missing star wing Paul George. James Harden and Kawai Leonard combined for 56 points, with Amir Coffey scoring 17. In stats, neither team had a substantial advantage in any category. The Wizards will have one more opportunity to defeat the Clippers in the season finale on Mar. 1.

 

Bilal Coulibaly

In addition to getting to start with Poole out sick against the Clippers, Coulibaly was named to the All-Star Rising Stars challenge rookie team and will be the only Wizards player to represent D.C. at the All-Star weekend. 

“I am incredibly proud to represent the Wizards’ organization, the DMV, and our fans at the All-Star weekend,” Coulibaly said on the Wizards Twitter. “This is an honor I share with my coaches and teammates because they have all been so helpful in the development of my game and my adjustment to the NBA.” 

 

Heat

Washington’s first game of week 15 was a home contest against the Miami Heat (28–24) on Feb. 2. The Wizards kept the game competitive but lost in the end 110–102. The bulk of D.C.’s scoring came from an unlikely source, Corey Kispert, Washington’s leading scorer with 26 points and six made three-pointers — the most of any player in the game. For Miami, it was their dynamic duo of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The combo had 24 and 20 points respectively, with Abebayo grabbing 14 rebounds. On the topic of rebounds, Washington kept up their season-long run of poor rebounding, getting out-rebounded 59-43. The team will focus on that weakness in the future, Keefe told the Associated Press. 

Washington remains the worst rebounding team in the entire league, averaging 40.4 boards per game. Miami now has a 2–0 lead in the season series, with game three out of four coming on Mar. 10

 

Suns

Washington’s next home matchup against the Phoenix Suns (30–21) on Feb. 4 marked former Wizard Bradley Beal’s first game back in Washington after an off-season trade. The Wizards created a tribute video to the former guard, shown in the arena during pregame introductions, highlighting his 11 years in the district. Beal put on a show for his former home crowd, scoring 43 points while shooting 16/21 in the Suns 140–112 victory. He kept it short and sweet when talking about his return to D.C. For the current Wizards, Avdija led them in scoring during the defeat with 24 points on a very efficient 10/13 from the field. The entirety of the Suns’ squad played exceptionally well, with an overall shooting percentage of 61.4% and a three-point percentage of 44%, compared to Washington’s 49 overall field goal percentage and 21.9 three-point percentage. Washington’s loss ended the season series against Phoenix, with the Wizards losing 0–2.

 

Cavaliers

Washington’s final game of week 15 was another home contest, this time against the Cleveland Cavaliers (33–16) on Feb. 7. The Wizards again failed to replicate the success early in Keffe’s head coaching tenure and suffered a 114–106 defeat. Both teams had identical first and second-quarter point totals, making the game tied at 57 at halftime. Washington didn’t let Cleveland pull away in the third quarter either, with the score standing at 80–79. However, a dominant fourth quarter by Donovan Mitchell, who scored 14 points, sealed Washington’s fate. 

Kuzma returned to his leading scorer role with 28 points on the night, followed by Kispert with 23. However, Poole received jeers from the Washington faithful as he failed to score any points in 25 minutes. Cleveland Mitchell ended the night with the game’s high of 40 points, with Evan Mobley trailing behind him with 22 points of his own. The Wizards did out-rebound the Cavs, but it was only by the slimmest of margins in the 47-46 rebounding battle. Cleveland now has a commanding lead on the season series at 3–0, with the finale coming on Feb. 25. 

 

Week 16 Preview

Week 16 consists of four matchups for Washington, two in the Eastern Conference and two in the Western Conference. The Wizards Eastern opponents are the Boston Celtics on the road on Feb. 9 and the Philadelphia 76ers at home on Feb. 10. Washington’s western opponents are the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 12 on the road, followed up by the New Orleans Pelicans on the road on Valentine’s Day.



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William English, Sports Writer
Grade 12 Why did you join the Black and White? Because Sports Journalism is my passion What is your favorite song of all time? Rich Spirit - Kendrick Lamar

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