WASHINGTON -- Given the pattern he has followed in recent seasons, perhaps it should not have been a surprise when Davis Bertans returned to the Wizards from a 10-game injury absence absolutely ice cold from three-point range. While some players may be able to quickly pick up where they left off, he has shown a tendency to need time to get his legs back under him, play himself into shape and find a shooting rhythm.
That process may not be over, but for one night in a win over the Timberwolves, he was the player the Wizards know he can be when healthy and playing well. Bertans broke out of a shooting slump to score 15 points in 16 minutes, going 5-for-6 from the field and 3-for-4 from three.
In his previous four games since coming back from a left ankle injury, Bertans shot a hideous 1-for-19 from deep. He surpassed that total with his first two long-range shots on Wednesday.
"It felt like somebody took a lid off the hoop. I should have probably done that a long time ago," Bertans said.
Though Bertans credited the Wizards' ball movement for creating easier looks, he also said it was just a matter of him making shots he had been taking in previous games. He kept the same practice routine, working on the same shots. Finally, they fell for him in a game.
Once they did, he helped the Wizards' offense erupt for 115 points. They are now 7-0 on the season when they score 115 points or more.
Bertans' threes were pivotal, as while he shot 3-for-4 from deep, the rest of the team went 7-for-28 (25%).
"We've said all along, when the first one goes in, the team starts to relax a little bit, he's not going to press and we have the utmost confidence that he's going to make that next shot," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "It's great to see it go in and I think it does wonders for your offense."
Unseld Jr. and others in the organization like team president Tommy Sheppard have described Bertans as a 'gravity shooter,' meaning his mere presence on the floor spaces out the offense by attracting defenders towards him. He is a threat from long range and requires opposing teams to cover more ground.
That effect was seen in Wednesday's win on several plays, including one in the first half. After Bertans made his first three, the Timberwolves double-teamed him on a closeout on the wing. Bertans went up for a shot, but switched plans mid-air to dump it off to Montrezl Harrell, who quickly found Corey Kispert for an easy layup under the basket.
Bertans drew outsized attention from the defense and the Wizards made them pay.
"It's just great to have him back, man. D.B.'s getting back to himself," Harrell said. "He's shooting the ball and I told him 'make, miss or whatever the shot is, keep shooting man, you're a shooter, man.' He knows that, we know that and it just feels great that he was able to get back out there and start knocking them down."
Bertans himself cautioned that one game doesn't mean he's back on track. Even with Wednesday's performance, he's shooting just 26.4% from three on the season and averaging 4.6 points per game.
Bertans needs to be much better than that for the Wizards, who have struggled shooting threes all year. But he also has to start somewhere, maybe Wednesday was the breakthrough he needed.