Deni Avdija has huge night against Celtics, let's Marcus Smart know it

Avdija comes up big vs. Celtics and Marcus Smart originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON -- Deni Avdija jumped the passing lane to steal the ball and was evidently so excited he nearly lost it on his way down the court. The third-year forward regained control just in time to throw down an emphatic fastbreak dunk with just over four minutes to go, a basket that helped seal a stunning victory for the Wizards over the reigning conference-champion Celtics.

As the ball shot through the net, Avdija did a quick turn, clenched his first and screamed into the crowd. It was a display of emotion not often seen from the Wizards youngster. Yeah, the extended reaction sort of led to points on the other end for the Celtics, but did it really matter?

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This was Avdija's night and he had earned some leeway. After all, he poured in 25 points, tying a career-high, along with 10 rebounds, five assists and a steal.

It was a complete performance and essential for the Wizards, who earned this victory without Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma and Daniel Gafford.

"I'm just not overthinking, I guess. I'm just trying to make the right decisions and be aggressive. I've put in a lot of work," Avdija said.

Don't think, just do. That might be the secret for Avdija, who like many young players tends to go through hot and cold stretches as consistency remains a moving target.


He has now scored 15 or more points in five straight games, easily the longest such streak of his career. But before that he reached double-figures just once in his previous seven appearances.

Avdija's role has recently been expanded due to the absence of key players. But even when there is stability in the rotation his offensive production tends to fluctuate dramatically.

Kristaps Porzingis has been outspoken in his praise for Avdija as his locker-room mentor and confidant. He sees a young player who can really go places if he just believes in himself.


"He shows that he's a hooper, he has the talent. He just needs a bit more freedom and a bit more confidence and he can do these things out there," Porzingis said.

Avdija's confidence showed up in Tuesday's 130-111 win over Boston in quite the unusual way. Though Avdija is never one to back down from a 1-on-1 challenge on the court, he's not known for having beef with opponents. He got into one against the Celtics, at least briefly.

Avdija and Marcus Smart, last season's Defensive Player of the Year, traded baskets and taunted each other on a series of possessions in the second quarter.

"I kind of got pissed when they called the offensive foul. I went back at him and then I finished over him and then I guess, yeah, I talked a little crap," Avdija said. "I mean, he went right back at me and hit a three, so it's kind of like we're tied. It was a funny moment. The bench loved it."


They had another interaction after the game, Avdija said, though it was all in good fun. Kyle Kuzma even joined in on it to egg them on.

"I told him 'let me talk some s---.' I was laughing with him and then Kuz came too and he said 'yeah, yeah, you should talk s--- to him.' He was saying he would get a tech if he did it to me, so it was just a funny moment," Avdija said.

Avdija had a 25-point double-double and got the best of one of the game's top defensive players. That's not a bad day at the office.