The Washington Wizards relied on an unlikely hero on Wednesday night to get past the surging Cleveland Cavaliers. It wasn't Bradley Beal or Spencer Dinwiddie who delivered the win, but Kyle Kuzma who stepped up to seal the deal.
Kuzma, who joined the Wizards in the offseason via the Los Angeles Lakers as a piece in the Russell Westbrook trade, poured in 22 points and grabbed five rebounds in Washington's eighth victory of the year. He shot 8-of-14 from the floor and went 6-for-9 from beyond the arc, which included the game-sealing three-pointer that gave the Wizards a 95-94 lead with 11.4 seconds remaining.
Kuzma has gotten off to a strong start this season in a new environment, but Wednesday was by far his best performance of the year thus far. Apparently, that's because he got a little motivation from a few fans in Cleveland last night.
During his postgame press conference, Kuzma revealed that there was a group of Cavaliers fans at the game in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse who brought a sign that read, "Without LeBron, Kuzma wouldn't have a ring." The Wizards forward explained that his game-winning three-pointer was specifically the fault of those fans.
He also shared what his retort was to that sign.
"And I said, 'Without Bron, Cleveland wouldn't be s---'," Kuzma said of his response to the Cavaliers fans,
Kyle Kuzma said hecklers motivated him, that the ending was "their fault."
He said it was Cavs fans had a sign that said "Without LeBron, Kuzma wouldn't have a ring." He told them: "Cleveland wouldn't be shit without LeBron."
— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) November 11, 2021
"> per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports.
Although Kuzma is right that LeBron James delivered the Cavaliers their first and only NBA Championship back in 2016, his assessment of the organization and the city isn't exactly fair. Cleveland was a strong Eastern Conference competitor in the early 1990's that unfortunately ran into Michael Jordan early and often in the playoffs.
In fairness to Kuzma, his retort only came out because he was fired up with his performance. He certainly had the right to be as he was a major reason that the Wizards remained atop the Eastern Conference standings at night's end.
Kuzma has been a reliable contributor to Washington through the first three weeks of the season and has seen his individual numbers benefit as a result. He's averaging 14.8 points and a career-high 9.1 rebounds through 11 games, while also shooting a career-best 38.9 percent on 6.5 three-point attempts per game.
If Kuzma can keep up his play, the Wizards should remain in the hunt in the Eastern Conference throughout the rest of the season.