Anthony Gill steps up to provide a spark with career-high in win over Bulls

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Gill steps up with career-high in win over Bulls originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON -- After hitting the go-ahead shot to beat the Chicago Bulls, Kyle Kuzma broke an unwritten rule in the Wizards' locker room on Wednesday night.

Usually, the team's wrestling belt handed out after wins is for the defensive player of the game. But after Anthony Gill scored a career-high 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting, all while filling in for the injured Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford, Kuzma felt no one else was more deserving of the honor.

"I appreciate Kuz for stepping outside the box for me," Gill said.

Gill, to be fair, was part of a defensive effort that held the Bulls to 97 points, including only 17 in the fourth quarter. But this game for Gill stood out mostly for his offense.

He's usually outside the Wizards' rotation but was promoted out of necessity amid difficult circumstances. The Wizards were not only missing their two starting big men, but they were also losers of three straight and going up against a two-time All-Star center in Nikola Vucevic.

Gill found scoring opportunities by cutting to the basket and by cleaning up on the offensive glass. He had three offensive rebounds and collected his 18 points in only 23 minutes.

Gill had a season-high 12 points by halftime, giving the Wizards a needed push early on as they saw the Bulls build a 16-point lead.

"My teammates put me in that position," Gill said.

Gill has a tendency to deflect praise. In the postgame locker room, he said he tried his best to cut head coach Wes Unseld Jr.'s speech about him short by bringing in the team for their closing embrace.

Gill is a popular player in the Wizards' locker room because of that unselfishness. He considers it sacrificing for the greater cause, whether it be something he does on the court to help a teammate, or when he's on the bench like grabbing someone water.

Wizards players and coaches also like Gill for his work ethic. While his role is deep down the bench, he sets an important tone in the workplace.

"He's probably the most wholesome person I've ever met in my life. He barely says a cuss word," Kuzma said. "He comes in every day. If we have a practice, he's probably there at 7:30 or 8. He's up [earlier] than us because he does have multiple kids. I'm not calling him Kobe Bryant coming to the gym."

Kuzma may have added a joke there to not overstate Gill's preparation. But Gill, a 30-year-old veteran in his third NBA season, does his best to put in more time than anyone else.

"I may have some sort of problem. I just can't allow somebody to work harder than me," he said.

That extra effort behind the scenes is all about Gill's aim to close the gap in talent between him and other players in the league. He began his professional career overseas before making the NBA leap in his late 20s. He didn't debut until he was 28 years old.

Every time he steps on the floor, Gill competes against players who are more athletic and have more distinguished basketball resumes. He derives confidence from the groundwork he lays in practice. That spirit and the way he lifts his teammates make him an easy guy to root for.

"It's like karma, it comes full-circle," Unseld Jr. said.