ORLANDO — The Washington Wizards found themselves in an unusual situation before Friday's 119-100 win at the Amway Center. The Orlando Magic had just eight players for their final game of 2022.
Orlando's low numbers weren't the surprising part. The COVID-19 coronavirus and the high number of infections in recent NBA seasons have made this known. The Magic were suspended after the NBA suspended nine players from the Orlando team following Wednesday's game against the Detroit Pistons.
Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. made appropriate warnings. He warned that such things can rally a losing team and his players can't help but notice their low-scoring opponents.
Not sold, to worry about. Washington (16-21) had a tough matchup, as it was able to easily cruise to its fourth straight win after a full-game effort despite missing goaltender Bradley Bell (left hamstring) for the second straight game.
"We're just doing what we have to do," Kristaps Porzingis said. "What are you paying us for?"
Orlando is without former Wizards center Moritz Wagner, who was suspended for two games, and star forward Wendell Carter Jr., guard Cole Anthony, center Mo Bamba, guard RJ Hampton and Gary Harris, who were all suspended for one game. The league shockingly waived the suspensions in order for Orlando to meet the minimum number of players required by the league.
The rest does not suit the "Wizards", who are not on a 10-game losing streak. Uneven (in part due to injuries) during the losing streak, Washington kept moving forward.
Fifteen three pointers didn't hurt.
Porzingis scored 30 points and shot 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-of-16 shooting, five rebounds, six assists and eight steals. Rui Hachimura scored 16 points off the bench.
The Wizards worked hard on defense and clearly controlled the game. Their only faltering came in the second quarter when they sometimes weren't sharp enough attacking to capitalize on the chances they created. Backup guard Dillon Wright came in to break up what was an easy throw for Orlando. However, the Wizards weren't out of the game until after the break, which has been problematic this season where they've shown a tendency to slip and stagnate.
Crime was still rampant. both Unseld and Porzingis chased it down, but Orlando (13-24) didn't take advantage as much as it could have of the Wizards' stunning turnaround, shooting just 42 percent from the field. Washington made far fewer field goals, but those attempts often looked like the Wizards wanted them. They are shooting 56% from the field, 42.9% from beyond the arc.
"Sometimes you see how the game is going and you feel that the possession of the ball is not as it should be. Then you look down and we made 33 of 42 field goals,” Unseld said. The game went on … a bit over the ball and luckily it didn't hurt us too much."
Franz Wagner led the Magic with 28 points and Paolo Ponchero led the pole position. Taken first overall in the 2022 draft, he had 21 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Here's what you need to know about the Wizards' win.
Bell attended the Wizards' shootaround Friday morning, and Unseld said he was "getting close" when asked for his pregame report. Washington had little incentive to come back against a team with such a poor roster.
Taj Gibson (groin), whose 37-year-old body had to be lifted in the final minutes, was also ruled out.
Porzingis and Daniel Gafford each had four blocks. Gafford also had 11 points and eight rebounds.