On a night when the Washington Wizards were missing their two leading scorers in Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, it was Kyle Kuzma who played hero to lift his team over the Chicago Bulls with his go-ahead 3-pointer in the closing seconds to secure a 100-97 win. It topped off a night where Kuzma finished with 21 points, four rebounds, and three assists while shooting 45 percent from the field.
With 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Kuzma used a screen from Taj Gibson to get Alex Caruso switched off of him, and created enough space to get off a fadeaway 3-pointer that was perfectly on target to give the Wizards a 3-point lead with 5.7 seconds left.
The 3-pointer was Kuzma's only made shot from deep on the night, as he was 0 for 3 before the eventual game-winner. It also broke a scoring drought for the Wizards that lasted nearly four minutes, with Kuzma missing two of his previous 3-point attempts during that stretch. It was a gutsy win by the Wizards, who were down by 13 points at halftime, but thanks to a 15-point, third-quarter performance from Monte Morris, by the start of the fourth quarter the Wizards not only completely erased the deficit, but found themselves up by seven points.
However, Chicago didn't go away quietly, as Zach LaVine tried to carry the Bulls to a win. It was LaVine's 3-pointer with 30 seconds left that tied the game at 97 apiece, giving him 38 points on the night. But Kuzma one-upped LaVine's efforts, helping the Wizards snap a three-game losing streak.
Kuzma's late-game heroics emphasizes the career year he's having in Washington. The sixth-year forward is averaging a career-high 21.3 points, to go along with 7.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists, and has become an integral piece to the Wizards' success. Though Washington is currently on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, as a game separates them and the final play-in spot, this team has shown that when it's healthy, it can be competitive.
The timing of Kuzma's standout season presents an intriguing situation for the Wizards. With Kuzma headed for unrestricted free agency this summer, he's likely to field offers from several contending teams looking to add his scoring and defensive versatility. It's already been reported that the Wizards view Kuzma as a "" piece for this team's future, but if Kuzma walks this summer, Washington will lose him for nothing. That's where the trade deadline comes in, which is now just under a month away on Feb. 9. Kuzma will surely be a highly coveted trade candidate, and given the way he's playing lately, the Wizards could get a quality return for him.
While Kuzma's play this season has ignited the team, his trade stock is also at an all-time high, and that game-winning 3-pointer Wednesday night only increased it.