The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Kristaps Porzingis has a career night as the Wizards snap a three-game skid

Wizards 142, Timberwolves 127

Wizards center Kristaps Porzingis scored a career-high 41 points in Monday's win over Rudy Gobert and the Timberwolves. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

A child in the Capital One Arena stands filled his lungs and wailed what every player on the Minnesota Timberwolves must have been thinking when Kristaps Porzingis squared up late in the second quarter: “Not again!”

The young fan’s well-timed caterwauling sounded like it was part of a comedy routine when Porzingis let fly for his fifth three-pointer of the half. He made another about a minute later, tying his season high for threes and cutting a path to the Washington Wizards’ 142-127 win Monday night that snapped a three-game skid.

“I have to admit,” Porzingis said after taking a glance at the box score, “I feel pretty good.”

One night after the Wizards meandered their way through a loss to the Jayson Tatum-less Celtics in Boston, they came out with verve against the Timberwolves, paced by a frontcourt unfazed by the prospect of staring down Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. Porzingis ended up with a career-high 41 points in an exultant performance that had a light but attentive crowd at Capital One Arena chanting “M-V-P!” in the fourth quarter.

He matched his season-high six threes — with 2:16 to go in the second quarter. Kyle Kuzma had three three-pointers early in the third to keep a Timberwolves comeback attempt at bay and finished with 23 points to go with nine assists and eight rebounds. Bradley Beal added 22 points and five assists. Washington (11-10) was in sync all night, turning the ball over just seven times compared with Minnesota’s 18 giveaways.

Porzingis put the record in his sights after pouring in 29 points by halftime.

“After the first half, I was like, ‘Okay, 29 — I think that’s the most I’ve made [in a half],’ ” he said. “I thought that I was not going to get it because I thought we were going to maybe blow them out by 30 and I would not play the fourth. I was preparing for that scenario in my head. ... But, yeah, very happy.”

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A rough night for the Timberwolves (10-11) got more difficult when Towns was helped off the floor with 5:25 left in the third quarter with what the team said was a right calf strain. The big man had not made contact with another player when he crumpled at midcourt and clutched the back of his leg. He had eight points in 22 minutes. Anthony Edwards had 29 points to pace Minnesota.

With Towns sidelined, Washington sailed on undaunted. Although Porzingis’s rapid-fire three-pointers in the first half looked special, the Wizards’ forceful effort was not so unusual — even though their shots from beyond the arc don’t typically fall with such regularity, they have proved they can play with energy, control and speed when they want to. Glossy wins against Philadelphia and Dallas prove as much.

Coach Wes Unseld Jr.’s primary issue as his team passes the quarter mark is getting his squad to produce that effort on a nightly basis. Asked where he would like to see improvement, Unseld said consistency is key.

“The consistency in general with how we play. Defensively, get back to playing at a higher level. I think we continue to move the ball, we’re finding the three-point shot — we’re struggling a bit to make them — but I do like our progress,” he said before the game. “... In general, some of the effort stuff, some of the communication, I’d like to see an uptick in those two areas.”

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Beal, too, said the Wizards are still too inconsistent to have an identity.

“Honestly, I couldn’t pinpoint that. I feel like we still have some inconsistencies we’ve got to be better at and improve on, especially on the defensive end. I think our identity is on that end of the floor. We can’t rely on outscoring everybody every night — that’s a tough task to do,” Beal said. “So hopefully it’s our pride in our defense and us being a physical team, but we’ve still got to be more consistent with that and figuring out what our true identity is.”

The Wizards entered Monday’s game 23rd in offensive rating and 15th in defensive rating, down from the top-10 standing on defense they had enjoyed for a good chunk of the season. Some of those offensive struggles, Unseld would point out, are because of the injuries and other absences his team has dealt with.

Guard Corey Kispert missed the first eight games with an ankle sprain; guard Delon Wright has not played since Oct. 25 because of a strained hamstring. Beal missed several games after testing positive for the coronavirus, and Monte Morris and Rui Hachimura, the latter of whom was out again Monday, have been sidelined by ankle soreness. Porzingis, meanwhile, has missed just one game despite a reputation for being injury-prone.

Those fluctuating lineups haven’t helped Washington develop chemistry. But Porzingis showed the Wizards can lean on their offense to make up for lax defense when necessary — Minnesota shot 50 percent Monday.

Porzingis feels sure of one thing: Even out the effort on both sides of the ball, and wins will follow.

“What we know is we are not at that level where we can take some time off during the game and go through the motions. If we want to be top-five, top-six team, then we have to be on at all times,” he said. “We cannot let some of these games slip. But we’ll get there. We’ll get there.”

Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ win:

Hachimura sits again

Hachimura last donned a game jersey Nov. 18 and has missed the past five games with soreness in his right ankle. When Unseld was asked Monday whether Hachimura has had an MRI exam to rule out significant damage, the coach, somewhat unusually, declined to answer.

“I think the medical team is going to exhaust all options, and I think we just continue to treat and see how he responds,” Unseld said. “Hopefully we’ll know more in the next couple days.”

Unseld said Hachimura remains day-to-day.

Bench bounces back

The Wizards’ second unit has struggled lately, but guards Jordan Goodwin and Kispert found a rhythm Monday — along with just about everyone else. Goodwin had 10 points, three rebounds and six assists. Kispert had 11 points and hit both of his three-pointers.

Season high

Washington’s 142 points were its most of the season by a wide margin. The Wizards had tallied 121 points three times, including in their loss Sunday at Boston.

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