Kuzma's game-winning three carries Wizards over Pistons in OT originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Washington Wizards beat the Pistons 119-116 (OT) in Detroit on Wednesday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
The Wizards are not playing their best basketball right now and that was once again the case on Wednesday night, but they had enough to beat a Pistons team that has now lost 10 straight. It turns out the margin for error is just a little bit wider when you are playing possibly the worst team in the league.
Regardless of the opponent and the nature of the victory, it was a win and the Wizards will take it. They had lost eight of 12 coming in and had to start somewhere. Even though this one required a double-digit comeback and overtime against a young and struggling team, the Wizards are back in the win column and have something to build off of.
The Wizards didn't score for a stretch of four minutes and 26 seconds in the final five minutes of the fourth, as the Pistons went on a 16-3 run to force overtime. Still, the Wizards won thanks to a go-ahead corner three by Kyle Kuzma with 0.6 seconds left.
Though it was ugly, the Wizards snapped a three-game losing streak and now sit 15-11 on the year. They play at home on Saturday against Utah before heading out for a six-game road trip that starts in Denver on Monday.
KCP, Kuzma took charge
This may be flying under the radar as the Wizards have been struggling lately, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been their second leading scorer over the past three weeks. Though he was making a big impact defensively, he had a slow start to the season scoring-wise. Lately, he has been one of their best offensive players.
Caldwell-Pope had 13 points in this game, including 10 in the third quarter alone. While many on the team seemed to come out of the locker room at halftime with added urgency, he certainly stood out and helped them turn the momentum around. He scored the team's first 10 points in the third quarter and brought the game to a tie at 62-62, erasing an eight-point halftime deficit.
The Wizards got a similar burst from Kuzma in the fourth quarter. He scored their first eight points in the frame and had 26 points with seven rebounds on the night.
Gafford got hurt, returned
Already struggling to win games, the Wizards were dealt some more misfortune as Gafford suffered a sprained right ankle in the second quarter. He went up to block a shot and came down on Jerami Grant's shoe. He rolled his ankle and he was immediately in obvious pain.
Gafford left the game for a fairly extended period and was announced as questionable to return by the team. Then, not long after, he was back in there with his ankle taped up, likely playing through a good deal of discomfort.
Gafford helped them, too, with five blocks after coming back. He ended the game with seven points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. Helping his cause is the fact the Wizards now have two days off before their next game. They will play Rudy Gobert and Utah Jazz, so they're going to need him.
The Pistons built a 12-point lead early in this game primarily because they got to the free throw line. It's one of the few ways they can beat you, as they rank seventh in the NBA in free throw attempts (21.3/g), sixth in makes (16.7/g) and 10th in percentage (78.5). In this game, the Pistons shot a preposterous 22-of-23 at the line in the first half alone. The Wizards, meanwhile, took only eight first-half free throws and made five. At one point, the Pistons had a 15-to-2 advantage in attempts.
Part of the Pistons taking free throws was getting Wizards players into foul trouble. Montrezl Harrell (four points) had three by the time there were three minutes left in the first half and that made matters worse with Gafford having left the game. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. had to turn to Anthony Gill for some rare playing time at center. Deni Avdija (10 points, six rebounds) and Kuzma also got into early foul trouble.
The Pistons got a major boost from an unexpected place on Wednesday night as backup guard Frank Jackson caught fire in the first half to drop 11 points in his first nine minutes on 3-for-3 from long range. Jackson entered the game shooting 39.1% from the field and 29.8% from three, so maybe he wasn't exactly high on the scouting report. The Wizards gave him some daylight and, man, did he make them pay.
Jackson kept it rolling in the second half to finish with 19 points. He helped Detroit build a double-digit lead and their 29th-ranked offense drop 60 points in the first half. Jackson had 11 points in his previous two games combined on 1-for-7 from three, but he found his shot just in time to hurt the Wizards.