Wizards hold off the Suns for a third straight win

Wizards hold off the Suns for a third straight win


After returning from a nearly two-month absence due to a hamstring strain, Delon Wright has insisted that his feeling for the game will slowly return. The Washington Wizards guard expects that regaining his conditioning and feel for his shot will be a gradual process with an unknown end. One thing he was sure of: his defense would come before his offense.

Wright may have underestimated himself on the last point. He played defense Wednesday as if he hadn’t missed a game.

The Wizards notched their third straight win with a 127-102 victory over the Phoenix Suns at Capital One Arena. They did it without Bradley Beal (sore left hamstring), making it a triumph in which Wright reminded the Wizards — again — just how valuable he is.

When Kyle Kuzma was asked on the court afterward how Washington had turned a 10-game losing streak into this promising stretch, his answer was short: “Delon Wright. We’ve got Delon Wright back.”

Phoenix had narrowed a 19-point halftime deficit to four with just over a minute left in the third quarter before Wright sparked a seven-point run. In the final 1:02, he set up Deni Avdija for a dunk, then had a deflection and a steal for a fast break that resulted in a three-point play. He stole the ball from Chris Paul to close things out, leaving Washington (15-21) with a healthier 93-84 lead before dominating the fourth quarter 34-18.

Wright, whose first game back in the game capped the streak, finished Wednesday’s game with just three points, one rebound, three steals and three assists in 15 minutes — but his fingerprints were all over Washington’s win, just as they were Tuesday in a convincing win over visiting Philadelphia. In that game, Wright bullied James Harden and spun around the court to counter shots with sharp defensive savvy that his teammates rave about.

“He understands the game, he knows how to make the right play,” Kuzma, Wright’s college teammate at Utah, said after Tuesday’s game. “We trust him to have the ball in his hands.”

Wednesday was a big night for the bench. Rui Hachimura led the Wizards with a career-high 30 points and five rebounds. Kristaps Porzingis scored 22 points and six rebounds, while Kuzma scored 22 points and seven assists.

The Wizards owned the paint to start the first half, shot hard and rebounded well to take a 19-point lead into the second quarter. Center Daniel Gafford, who again started alongside Porzingis in a big opening lineup, was active and helped set an energetic tone. For the game, Washington shot 57.3 percent. Deandre Ayton led the Suns (20-16) with 31 points and Paul had 20, but they couldn’t continue without Devin Booker, who will miss at least four weeks with a groin strain, the team said.

The Wizards were missing their star point guard, but it didn’t matter. Another guard stepped up to help lead the team to another victory.

Here’s what you need to know about the Wizards’ win:

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Beal was a game-time decision. He tested his hamstring during pregame warmups, in which he appeared far less mobile than normal — he mostly stood near the basket or at the free-throw line, apparently testing to see if he could push his leg off. his left hand during the shootout — before the Wizards announced he would not play.

Asked if Beal had undergone imaging after a report from the Athletic indicated he underwent an MRI exam, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said: “He is fully appreciated.”

After being hurt late in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Beal was visibly upset, tugging and snapping his headband in frustration. He had returned to action on December 18 after missing six games with a right hamstring strain – and earlier missed five games in early November after testing positive for the coronavirus.

“You can tell in his body language, I think there’s a little bit of frustration,” Unseld said. “He wants to be out there and help generate his own pace and it feels like every time he gets a few games under his belt, you worry about something. I can understand the human side of it.”

Even without Beal, Unseld kept the rotation short until the final 1:58, when he cleared the bench. Wing Will Barton, a starter for Denver last season, did not play for the second straight game. Backup guard Jordan Goodwin and forward Anthony Gill appeared only in garbage time.

Gafford scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half and spent much of the time battling Ayton on defense. Gafford also grabbed eight rebounds in 25 minutes.

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