DETROIT — On his career night, Kelly Oubre Jr. provided his most signature celebration.
After most of Oubre’s five three-point baskets, he extended his index finger to his lips or blew a kiss into the stands at Little Caesars Arena. But when Oubre silenced a Pistons rally by making his final three-pointer while getting knocked to the floor late in the game, he placed his hands on his hips, tilted his head and flashed a cheesy smile in the direction of Pistons assistant coach Tim Hardaway.
With the pose, Oubre seemed to be expressing peak confidence. And after leading the Wizards on the scoreboard while tallying a career-best 26 points in a 122-112 win, Oubre’s poise was praised by his team.
“It’s great,” John Wall said. “Kelly put a lot of work into this game. He’s a knockdown shooter for us.”
Oubre made more deep looks than Bradley Beal (4 of 7) and Otto Porter Jr. (4 of 5) as the Wizards connected on 16 of 35 attempts from beyond the arc. Benefiting from the team’s willingness to make the extra pass against the Pistons, Oubre continued a wave of hot shooting from downtown.
Before the start of the season, Oubre revealed that he had changed his shooting mechanics. The left-handed shooter moved his elbow so that his form no longer obstructs his vision. The tweak has helped Oubre maintain a consistent three-point percentage in the high 30s throughout his third NBA season. And over the past five games, he has shot 53.3 percent to raise his season-long mark to 40.5 percent.
“I was just following my fundamentals,” said Oubre, who credited his trainer, Drew Hanlen, “my basic principles that me and Drew work on. They were working tonight. I stayed disciplined. I tried to stay locked in throughout the whole game. You know, I see where it leads me, so staying locked in is definitely the key to success.”
Teammates have noticed. During consecutive games of Washington’s recent homestand, Oubre was given the last shots to end a quarter and nailed the buzzer beaters. Oubre also provided a rare highlight in the Wizards’ 133-109 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday by hitting 3 of 5 attempts from the arc.
“That’s what he’s been doing for us all year,” Wall said, “being able to knock down shots and shooting with a lot of confidence.”
By Friday night, Coach Scott Brooks rewarded Oubre with starters’ minutes and applauded his competitiveness through all 31 of those minutes.
“He competes,” Brooks said. “I always challenge him because at times he makes mistakes, but I’m not just going to let him make mistakes and chalk it up to he’s young. I keep challenging him. I keep trying to get him better, and you get better day by day, by working, by showing effort, by watching film, by competing. You don’t get better by not doing that. So he does that every night. Steps up and spaces the floor. His shot has been worked on. Give him credit. He’s developed that.”
And as for Oubre’s meme-worthy celebration after hitting the big shot? He grinned wide once a reporter brought up the topic. Oubre said he was enjoying himself in the moment while getting the best of some of his friends on the other side.
“It was a fun game, man, because I know a lot of people on that team,” Oubre said. “Stanley Johnson is like a brother to me. L.G. [Langston Galloway], we’re both from Louisiana. Dre [Andre Drummond], Eric Moreland, he’s from Houston. That team is sprinkled with a lot of people from my past. You know it’s a blessing to play against those guys.”