Southeast Notes: Porzingis, Gafford, Beal, Magic, J. Johnson

The Wizards have strung together four straight wins with a super-sized starting lineup featuring Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Both big men have adapted well to the pairing, enabling Washington to climb back into the race for the play-in tournament.

Hughes notes that both players blocked four shots Friday night at Orlando, becoming the first Wizards teammates to reach that total in the same game in 10 years. With Porzingis getting 13 rebounds and Gafford collecting eight, they are the first Washington players with at least four blocks and eight rebounds in the same game since 1987.

Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said earlier this week that he wanted to watch the Porzingis-Gafford pairing for five games before determining whether to make it permanent, but Hughes suggests that Unseld has probably seen enough already to make a decision. Hughes points out that Porzingis has more freedom on offense with Gafford stationed down low, allowing him to look for three-point shots and post up whenever he has a mismatch.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards guard Bradley Beal missed Friday’s game with a sore left hamstring and is listed as questionable for Sunday night against the Bucks. He has sat out the past two games.
  • After enjoying an 8-2 stretch earlier this month, the Magic have dropped their last three games, observes Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. The Magic are short-handed because of suspensions imposed after a fight with the Pistons this week, but they also have a lot of young players who are still getting used to the rigors of a long season. “It’s a tricky balance,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “You have a group of young guys that are working every single day but balancing how much they work vs. understanding their bodies need to get the rest. You don’t want to overdo it in practice to the point that in the game that their energy levels are lower. We’ll balance it out.”
  • Hawks forward Jalen Johnson is coming off the best week of his NBA career, averaging 12.3 PPG over his last three games, per Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Opportunities have arisen for the team’s younger players after injuries to Clint Capela and De’Andre Hunter. “That’s just a part of being an NBA,” Johnson said. “You just got to be prepared for whatever situation like last year, when we had all those COVID cases, like we had a whole new team. So, you just got to be prepared for whatever injuries happen. That’s just a part in this league playing 82 games. So yeah, it’s not really nothing crazy getting adjusted to that.”
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