Injuries and Hometown Kid Hurt Wizards’ Playoff Chances

Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz (20) goes to the basket as Washington Wizards center Daniel Gafford (21) watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 31, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)


Washington, DC— In a game where there was no Bradley Beal (knee soreness), Kristaps Porzingis (illness) or Kyle Kuzma (ankle sprain), the Washington Wizards fought valiantly but fell short to the Orlando Magic, 116-109.

However, the game started promising for the home team.  The Wizards (34-43) dominated most of the game.  They were up 76-60 in the third quarter, highlighted by the play of Wizards guard Cory Kispert.

Kispert was on firing, making eight three-point shots within the first three quarters.  He finished the game with 27 points, which includes tying his career high of nine three-point makes in a game.

“I was feeling really good.  It was about executing.  I was pretty much a three-point shooter tonight, nothing much more to evaluate.”

At the start of the fourth quarter, the Wizards were up 96-85; then the Magic deployed their defensive zone and it gave the Wizards fits. The Magic (33-44) went on an 11-0 run to start the quarter, which tied the game at 96-96.  Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. talked about the effectiveness of the Magic’s zone defense.

“We just got a little rattled with the zone defense, really struggled to make the open threes and I thought when we missed a few that we got a little hesitant.”

At the 5:51 mark of the fourth quarter, the Magic took their first lead (105-103) since their 2-0 lead to start the first quarter. This was sparked by Magic guard Cole Anthony and forward Franz Wagner.  The two combined for 17 points in the quarter, willing their team to a comeback victory.

Magic’s rookie forward Paolo Banchero had the game high of 30 points.  He also had 12 rebounds to lead the Magic.  Wizards forward Deni Avdija had issues guarding the potential NBA Rookie of the Year.  Banchero was going to the basket with force, which led to him going 13 of 14 from the charity stripe.

“I just wanted to come out and just be aggressive, make my presence felt, said Banchero.”

It was a homecoming for Prince George’s County native and DeMatha alum Markelle Futz.  The Magic guard historically plays well against the Wizards.  He scored 25 points against the Wizards Friday night which puts his career average to 17.8 points per game against the Wizards.  Even more impressive, he averages 20 points per game at Capital One Arena.

“Coming home, it’s like a home game for me.  I got people in the stands.  My family always comes out.  So I love the DMV.  So any chance I get to show-out and put on a show for the home fans, you know I love to do that.”

Porzingis was out sick against the Magic and the Wizards missed him on the court.  The Wizards have five games remaining to their season and are three games behind the Chicago Bulls for the 10th spot to make the NBA Play-in Tournament.   It is going to be difficult, especially without having their big three of Beal, Porzingis and Kuzma healthy.  Coach Unseld knows it will be tough mission to make the playoffs.

“It’s probably going to be difficult given how many guys we have out.  I like our competitive spirit.”

The Wizards travel to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Knicks.  They cannot afford any loses.  Hopefully, the Wizards take their competitive spirit to the “Big Apple.”

Wole Akinso