In Wizards debut, Porzingis keys 133-123 win over Pacers
WASHINGTON (AP) — Kristaps Porzingis finally made his debut for the Washington Wizards — and didn’t need much time to make a big impact.
Porzingis scored 25 points in his first game for Washington, and the Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 133-123 on Sunday night. Porzingis returned from a right knee bone bruise and played for the first time since the Wizards acquired him from Dallas in a trade nearly a month ago.
It was his first game overall since Jan. 29. He started and played a significant role despite playing only 21:19.
“Happy to be out there with a minutes restriction,” Porzingis said. “I tried to stay calm, not to do too much, play the right way. Most importantly, we got the win.
Kyle Kuzma scored 23 points for the Wizards, who took control of the game with a 39-point third quarter. Washington pulled within two games of Brooklyn, Charlotte and Atlanta, who would occupy the last three spots in the Eastern Conference play-in round if the season ended now.
Washington went right to the 7-foot-3 Porzingis on its first offensive possession, throwing a lob his way. He couldn’t quite slam it down, but he did manage to tip the ball in. Later in the first half, Porzingis provided another highlight when he blocked Oshae Brissett near the basket, although Brissett scored over Porzingis immediately afterward.
When Indiana had the ball down three late in the fourth, Kuzma blocked a shot, and Porzingis threw down a one-handed alley-oop dunk at the other end, putting the Wizards up 124-119.
“Everybody was great finding me, and then Deni (Avdija) threw the lob at the end,” Porzingis said. “It was a great moment for the first game to be here in Washington, and looking forward to many more moments like that.”
Malcolm Brogdon made two free throws for Indiana with 1:35 left, but Porzingis again dunked after an offensive rebound.
“I was pleasantly surprised, honestly, with his conditioning,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “I know we had to be mindful of the stretches that he was going to play, but he handled it well.”
Brogdon scored 27 points for the Pacers, who have lost 11 of 14.
“Just finding gaps in the defense, trying to be aggressive,” said Brogdon, who went 11 of 13 on free throws. “This team needs scoring, so that’s what I’m trying to provide.”
Indiana led 61-57 at halftime, but the Wizards shot 61% from the field in the third quarter and took a 96-87 lead into the fourth. After the Pacers started the final period with four straight points, Porzingis made a 3-pointer to push the lead back to eight.
BEYOND THE ARC
The Wizards went 17 of 42 from 3-point range. Five Washington players made at least two.
Goga Bitadze scored a career-high 20 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the field — including three 3-pointers.
“I just trusted my shot. I made some shots,” he said. “I know I can do this every night.”
Pacers: C Myles Turner has been out since Jan. 14 because of a stress reaction in his left foot.
Wizards: G Raul Neto left with a sprained left ankle. ... The Wizards and Monumental Sports & Entertainment made a $25,000 donation to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in honor of play-by-play radio host Dave Johnson. The donation was matched by KPMG, Giant Food and WTOP News for a total of $100,000. Johnson’s mother died from MS when he was a child, and he learned of his own diagnosis a few years ago.
Pacers: Host Cleveland on Tuesday night.
Wizards: At Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
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