The Cleveland Cavaliers (33-16) defeated the Washington Wizards (9-41) 114-106 on Wednesday night as Jordan Poole floundered. Cleveland won their seventh consecutive game while Washington dropped their fourth straight.
Cavaliers defeat Wizards as Jordan Poole Flounders
Washington was led by Kyle Kuzma, who returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous game due to injury. Kuzma tallied 28 points (team-high) and five three-pointers. The Wizards starting lineup consisted of Kuzma, Deni Avdija (9 points), Poole (0 points), Tyus Jones (15 points), and Daniel Gafford (14 points and 10 rebounds).
Corey Kispert had another impressive outing off the bench by contributing 23 points on 9/15 (60%) shooting from the field and 4/9 (44%) from three-point range, respectively.
The game was back and forth throughout, but Washington couldn’t overcome Donovan Mitchell’s 40 point performance on 56% percent shooting for the night.
Kuzma and Gafford Impresses as Trade Deadline Looms
Kuzma’s return to the starting lineup is exactly what the Wizards needed. As the teams leading scorer, Kuzma returned and shot efficiently (45%) from the field in 32 minutes of action. The former Laker missed Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns due to shoulder soreness.
Gafford tallied his fourth double-double in the past six games and has continued to show tenacity and assertiveness, especially on the defensive end (4 blocks).
3rd block on the night already for Gaff. 🚫🚫🚫 pic.twitter.com/2cIOmDPpFD
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) February 8, 2024
In the clip above, Gafford recorded his third block of the night by swatting Mitchell’s lay-up attack at the rim. Gafford has recorded thirteen total blocks in the last five games and has racked up double-digit rebounds four times within the last six affairs, respectively.
It’s no secret that Gafford and especially Kuzma have been in heavy trade talks as of late. Whether one or both of them get traded, it’s fair to say the two have been Washington’s best performers on a consistent basis lately.
Corey Kispert Continues To Show Out
Kispert once again impressed off the bench for Washington. In the Wizards last four games, Kispert has averaged 20 points per game on 54% percent shooting from the field. Kispert’s confidence continues to rise as each game passes as seen in the following clip.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) February 8, 2024
Kispert receives the ball from forward Eugene Omoruyi while in motion and is freed momentarily by the screen set by Omoruyi. Kispert aggressively attacks the basket despite 6-foot-11 Evan Mobley awaiting in the paint and scores an and-1.
The former 2021 first-round pick has been substantial coming off the bench for the Wizards. Due to his improved level of play, maybe it’s time for interim head coach Brian Keefe to make a change in the starting lineup, especially with Poole’s lackluster performances throughout the season.
Poole’s Dreadful First Season in Washington Continues
Poole still cannot seem to find his footing in Washington. In 25 minutes of game action, Poole contributed 0 points while having shot 0/5 from the field and 0/4 from three-point range, respectively.
The former Golden State Warrior hasn’t made a three pointer in the past two games and has shot 14.3% from the field in the last three games, respectively. Poole has become a liability on both ends on the floor, and the crowd let him know how they felt during Wednesday’s game.
Wizards fans booing Jordan Poole after not scoring a single point in tonight’s game😂😂😂pic.twitter.com/VLzb5JmpF4
— Ahmed/The Ears/IG: BigBizTheGod 🇸🇴 (@big_business_) February 8, 2024
Poole is matched up with Sam Merrill on the perimeter and struggles to create separation from the three-year professional guard. As the shot clock wanes, Poole chucks up a contested shot that missed, and is bombarded with boos from a frustrated D.C crowd.
The former Michigan Wolverine seems to have lost the attributes and tools that made the NBA community view him as a future star in the league. Poole’s 2023 season in D.C has been abysmal to say the least. As of this time of writing, Poole averages 15.9 points (second-lowest of career) on 40.4 percent shooting from the field (second-lowest of career) and 29.7 percent from beyond the arc (second-lowest of career), respectively.
Poole used to create separation with ease and oozed confidence while in Golden State. However, maybe that had a lot to do with Stephen Curry, whose constant off-ball movement and excellent shooting ability tends to free space for other players to operate effectively. Even so, Poole doesn’t seem himself and plays nowhere near the way he did during Golden State’s championship run in 2022.
It’s possible that Keefe may have to sit Poole on the bench and insert Kispert in the starting lineup if Poole doesn’t show any signs of improvement.
The Last Word
Since the trade deadline is around the corner, the Wizards may look a lot different post the annual deadline. Kuzma, Gafford, Jones, and guard Delon Wright could very well be in different locations by the end of the week.
Regardless, Keefe and the Wizards still have 32 games remaining to finish the season strong and find out which players will take the reins heading into next season.