Caldwell-Pope's 3 lifts Wizards over Thunder 122-118
By NOAH TRISTER
WASHINGTON (AP) The Washington Wizards pulled out another close game, this time with their biggest star sidelined.
This is how it's gone for new coach Wes Unseld Jr. this season. If the score is tight, his team tends to come through.
"Once again, we got timely stops and made big plays," Unseld said. "You could argue there were lucky plays, but we had to have them, and guys stepped up and made them."
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope banked in a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 30.8 seconds remaining, and the Oklahoma City Thunder never recovered. Washington won 122-118 on Tuesday night despite being without Bradley Beal because of health and safety protocols.
Washington improved to 17-4 in clutch situations, defined as the final 5 minutes with a point difference of five points or fewer. In this game, neither team led by more than four through the entire fourth quarter.
The Thunder lost their fifth straight game, and the key possession came with about a half-minute to play and the score tied at 118. The Wizards worked the shot clock down, and Caldwell-Pope's attempt from the right wing went in off the glass. He responded by holding both arms out, apparently in relief, disbelief or both.
"That's deflating when you play good `D' ... and someone banks a 3 like that," said Oklahoma City's Josh Giddey, who scored 18 points.
Luguentz Dort missed everything on a 3 at the other end, and Kyle Kuzma made a free throw with 13.3 seconds left.
Kuzma led the Wizards with 29 points, and Spencer Dinwiddie had 22 points and 10 assists. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 32 points, including two straight layups that tied it at 118.
"He's exceptional," Unseld said. "Early, I thought he just saw daylight. He got downhill. We did a better job as the game went along, trying to show bodies and keep him in front."
Playing the first of eight consecutive home games on this stretch in the schedule, the Wizards took an 18-8 lead in the first quarter. Oklahoma City responded with a 12-0 run, and the Thunder eventually led by eight early in the second.
Gilgeous-Alexander scored 18 points in the first half, and Kuzma had 16 on 7-of-7 shooting. Oklahoma City led 61-58 after two quarters.
There were 16 lead changes in the game, 10 in fourth quarter.
Beal went into the health and safety protocols for the second time in under three weeks. Last time, he said he didn't have COVID-19 and it was due to contact tracing.
"The volume of possessions changes," Dinwiddie said. "Instead of being the screener, I'm probably going to have more screens set for me. Instead of being a little more of a catch-and-shoot guy, getting downhill and making more plays."
Oklahoma City was missing Isaiah Roby and Kenrich Williams due to health and safety protocols. ... The Thunder still had little trouble scoring for much of the night. Oklahoma City had six players in double figures, including reserves Darius Bazley (14 points), Ty Jerome (12) and Tre Mann (11).
"We want to have depth, and we want to develop a full team," coach Mark Daigneault said. "We don't want to be over-reliant on individual players."
Thunder: Dort scored 17 points. ... Oklahoma City had only five turnovers on the night, but Washington had just eight so it wasn't a huge advantage.
Wizards: Washington shot 54% from the field. Kuzma finished 12 of 17. ... Montrezl Harrell scored 12 points in his return from health and safety protocols.
Thunder: Visit Brooklyn on Thursday night.
Wizards: Host Orlando on Wednesday night.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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Updated January 11, 2022