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Wizards take care of business against shorthanded Magic


ORLANDO — The Washington Wizards arrived ahead of their 119-100 win at Amway Center on Friday to an unusual situation: The Orlando Magic had just eight players available for its final game of 2022.

Orlando’s low numbers were not the odd part — covid-19 and the NBA-wide rash of injuries over the past few seasons have made those familiar. The Magic was short because of a bench-clearing melee with the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday that led the NBA to suspend nine Orlando players.

Wizards Coach Wes Unseld Jr. issued the appropriate cautions. This kind of thing can rally an underdog team, he warned, and his players couldn’t overlook their shorthanded opponents.

Unseld need not have worried. Washington (16-21) was strictly business and handled the Magic with ease for its fourth consecutive win behind a complete effort despite being without guard Bradley Beal (left hamstring) for the second game in a row.

“We’re just doing what we’re supposed to,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “What we’re getting paid for.”

Orlando was without former Wizards center Moritz Wagner, who was suspended for two games, plus leading rebounder Wendell Carter Jr., guard Cole Anthony, center Mo Bamba, guard RJ Hampton and guard Gary Harris, all of whom were suspended for one game. The league staggered the suspensions to ensure Orlando had the league-mandated minimum number of players available.

What remained was no match for the Wizards, who are cresting in the wake of a 10-game losing streak — they have won five of their past six, and they are following a familiar blueprint: Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma led, while the bench, which had been woefully flat during the losing streak (in part because of injuries), kept Washington afloat.

Fifteen three-pointers didn’t hurt, either.

Porzingis had 30 points and made 9 of 13 from the field. He added 13 rebounds and four blocks without much resistance at the rim. Kuzma had 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting with five rebounds, six assists and eight turnovers. Rui Hachimura had 16 points off the bench.

The Wizards worked hard on defense and were clearly in control. Their only wobble came in the second quarter when they occasionally weren’t sharp enough on offense to capitalize on the opportunities they created. Backup guard Delon Wright was on court to disrupt what would have otherwise been easy buckets for Orlando. Still, the Wizards didn’t run away with the game until the starters checked back in after halftime — a problematic stretch this season in which they show a tendency to slip and stagnate.

The offense was still a hair frenetic — both Unseld and Porzingis nitpicked it after — but Orlando (13-24) didn’t exploit the Wizards’ staggering 26 turnovers as much as it could have and shot just 42 percent from the field. Washington shot far fewer field goals, but the attempts were often the exact looks the Wizards wanted. They shot 56 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc.

“At times you watch the flow of the game and you feel like the possessions aren’t really what they should be. Then you look down, and we had 33 assists on 42 field goals,” Unseld said. “We got more ball movement as the game went on. … We turned the ball over quite often, and thankfully it didn’t burn us too bad.”

Franz Wagner led the Magic with 28 points, and Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft, had 21 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ win:

Beal participated in the Wizards’ light shoot-around Friday morning, and Unseld said he was “getting close” when asked for a progress report before the game. There was little incentive for Washington to rush his return against a team with such a thin roster.

Taj Gibson (groin soreness), whose 37-year-old body has had to weather a sharp increase in minutes of late, also sat out.

Porzingis and Daniel Gafford had four blocks apiece. Gafford also had 11 points and eight rebounds.


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