The Washington Wizards were short-handed when the Dallas Mavericks came into town on Thursday night. Shortly before the game, the Wizards announced that Kristaps Porzingis (left groin strain) and Taj Gibson (cervical strain) would be inactive against the Mavericks.
With Bradley Beal still in health and safety protocols and Porzingis being one of the Wizards consistent leading scorers, it was clear someone else would have to take on the scoring load.
Kyle Kuzma led the way with season-high 36 points on 14-of-26 shooting (5-11 3PT), 11 rebounds and seven assists in the Wizards 113-105 victory. It was also his third double-double of the season and his second in the last three games.
It also marks the first time Kuzma has scored 30+ points in a game since Feb. 26, 2022 at Cleveland and is the 18th occurrence in his career. Additionally, Kuzma’s 14 field goals made are the most he’s connected on since knocking down 15 shots on Jan. 11, 2020 at OKC as a member of the Lakers. Kuzma has now scored 20+ points in five games this season, including in back-to-back games.
However, Rui Hachimura was the X-factor. He was on fire, playing with aggression and confidence. At one point, he swung around on the rim after drilling the ball into the basket. When Hachimura is in his zone, he is in his zone. After the game, Hachimura stated that he wanted to come out and be aggressive on the floor.
Although Hachimura shined in the preseason, he’s had some challenges with consistency during his transition from starter to a bench role. His abilities have always been there but he was finally able to make a statement and step up big with the short-handed roster.
“My first two years I was a starter and I was finishing the game,” Hachimura said. “It was nothing new to me. I know how to close a game, how to be patient, and when to be aggressive. I think today was a good game.”
Hachimura finished with a season-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor, also grabbing eight rebounds and has now scored in double figures in ten games from off the bench this season.