After cooling off, Jordan Poole heats up, but it’s not enough for Wizards

After cooling off, Jordan Poole heats up, but it’s not enough for Wizards

طوبیٰ Tooba 55 years ago 0 2

Jordan Poole needed a moment to cool off.

When the Washington Wizards guard was subbed out in the middle of the second quarter Tuesday night, he walked past his teammates’ outstretched hands and beyond the trainer trying to hand him a warmup jacket as he beelined to an empty spot near an exercise bike just off the court. He had just made a bad pass that resulted in a turnover, and the spot where he stood with his hands on his hips, staring at the action on the court, offered some solace — no one but teammate Delon Wright keeping his legs warm and a few security guards stood by.

What an argument for taking a break during the workday. Although Poole’s Wizards fell for the third time this season to the ascendant Orlando Magic, this time by a 127-119 score, his 18-point charge in the fourth quarter helped them make it a tight game late.

It isn’t often a crowd erupts for a team that’s trailing by 14 points in the final quarter, but that’s what happened when Poole danced, then leaped over the three-point line to nail a shot with 5:06 to play. The folks at Capital One Arena were on to something — the Wizards (5-24) went on a 12-2 run after that to get within four with just over two minutes to play. But without staunch defense, they couldn’t close.

“He’s had stretches where there’s been frustration, whether it’s been lack of calls, missed shots,” said Wizards Coach Wes Unseld Jr., who credited his team’s defense for allowing Poole’s offense to flow. “… He was able to channel that frustration into something positive.”

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Poole tied a season high with 30 points, including six three-pointers. His efforts combined with strong play from Daniel Gafford and Tyus Jones to make the night a good fight, at least, for the second consecutive meeting with Orlando (18-11).

Jones had 22 points and six assists. Gafford had 13 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals. And as solid as they were, the fourth-quarter spurt was thanks to more than just the three leaders.

Rookie Bilal Coulibaly had a critical assist and drew fouls, and Kyle Kuzma was in the right place at the right time for a crucial block.

“Just trying to be aggressive down the stretch,” Poole said to explain his success late. “We needed to make one last push. … The crowd got involved a little bit, so that gave us some energy, but we needed to make a push.”

By then, though, the Wizards had flubbed too often on offense — they had 20 turnovers — and allowed the Magic to get comfortable on defense. After an eight-point first half, Paolo Banchero poured in 12 points in the third quarter, and Franz Wagner matched him. Wagner ended up leading Orlando with 28 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, and Banchero was close on his heels with 24 points and eight assists. Rookie Anthony Black had a career-high 23 points.

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

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With Banchero and Wagner working, the Wizards lost the most ground — 70 points — in the paint despite Gafford’s strong play. Orlando shot 52.7 percent overall.

Wright was back from a left knee sprain for his first game since Nov. 10. He had seven points, four rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes off the bench.

“He worked hard to be back. It was definitely a spark for us — good to have him back,” Jones said of the defensive-minded guard. “He was classic Delon tonight: couple steals, couple deflections, just disrupting things on defense, was able to get to the paint a couple times, get a couple nice buckets.”

Can a run of three baskets in a row really be that special? As it turns out, yes.

Gafford went on a mighty, if mini, tear just before halftime to keep Orlando from gaining steam heading into the break. He had an athletic block and two difficult offensive rebounds in the final 2:20 of the second quarter — and scored after each play to keep things competitive.

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