The General Leads the New Wiz to their First Win of the Season

Washington Wizards point guard Tyrus Jones going to the basket for a layup against Memphis Grizzles guard Marcus Smart and forward Jaren Jackson Jr. in a NBA game, Saturday, October 28, 2023 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

By Wole Akinso


Washington, DC – In the home season opener for the Washington Wizards, point guard Tyus Jones’ generalship led the Wizards to a 113-106 victory over his former team, the “Ja Morant-less” Memphis Grizzlies.

The Wizards (1-1) were down 7-0 to the Grizzlies (0-3), missing their first seven shots.  New Wizard shooting guard Jordan Poole and forward Kyle Kuzma were cold and playing one-on-one basketball to start the game.  The team needed a calming presence to stop the bleeding.   At the 8:47 mark of the first quarter, Jones found Kuzma in the corner for a big three-pointer.  Then, he followed that with a three-pointer of his own to cut the lead to 7-6.   Jones finished the game with 14 points and seven assist with no turnovers.  Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. talked about the play of their floor general.

“He was big all game—made some great calls on the fly.  You know even make some runs throughout the game, kind of keep it double digit for the most part.  It was great to see him kind of quarterback the offense and do so without turning the ball over.”

Poole and Kuzma started the game rough, going 6 of 22 from the field in the first half.  Jones and shooting guard Corey Kispert kept the Wizards ahead.  Kispert had 22 points in the first half alone.  The reserve shooting guard went 5 of 8 from three in the first half, including a big dagger three-pointer, assisted by Jones, which pushed the lead to 55-39. Jones’ ability to call out the plays and get players in the right position was huge for the Wizards against the Grizzlies; especially with the early struggles of starts Kuzma and Poole.  Poole explained why Jones is so important to the team’s composure.

“It will be huge for us all season.  I think that’s the really good reason in why we acquired him, just because he’s a true point guard.  He knows how to get people into their sets. He knows who to call, what plays at what time, when we need timeouts, when we don’t, when we need to get up a shot, [and] how long we got left for time management.”

Poole eventually got rolling in his home debut.  He dropped 27 points and electrified the Capital One audience with wow plays, including a sweet alley-oop pass to Kuzma in the third quarter.  Kuzma struggled but he finished with 21 points, including multiple clutch baskets in the fourth quarter.

The Wizards had a 24 point lead over the Grizzlies in the third quarter (74-50), however that didn’t last.  The Grizzlies were able to cut the lead to six in the fourth quarter (107-101) with 1:50 left in the game.  Kuzma, known for his clutch gene in DC, hit a tough baseline Kobe Bryant-like fade-away to move the lead to 109-101 and put the game away.  Before Kuzma’s theatrics, the Grizzlies had the momentum while Jones was on the bench.  Kuzma wanted his starting point guard back in the game.

“There was one point in time in the fourth quarter that I screamed over across the court to the bench and said yo bring him back into the game; just because he’s just very calm and I must rather have him with the ball than me having the ball.  Put me in scoring positions instead of handling the ball.  Yeah, it was great.  Obviously, he’s a huge domino for us and seven assist and zero turnovers—that’s what he’s done his entire life.”

Sunday, the Wizards will be taking on a familiar face in the Kristaps Porzingis and the Boston Celtics.  Porzingis averaged 23 points per game with the Wizards last year.  He was involved in the trade that brought Jones to DC.  The Celtics received a versatile center who can shoot, score and defend, and the Wizards got a high IQ point guard.

Wole Akinso