WASHINGTON -- When Deni Avdija realized he would have to miss time due to lower back soreness, he was most disappointed by the fact his consecutive games played streak would come to an end. Avdija had played in 114 straight games, having not missed one since his rookie year when he broke his ankle in April of 2021.
This one was a bit of a fluke injury, as he tweaked his back on a routine dunk at shootaround. It wasn't how Avdija envisioned the streak would end, but he found a silver lining after he returned from a two-game absence in the Wizards' win over the Sixers on Tuesday night.
"Maybe my body signaled to me that I need to take a game or two off to restore my powers," he said. "I think we're going to be on a new streak. I can't wait to break it."
Avdija came back just in time to help the Wizards secure one of their best wins of the season so far. They beat the now 20-13 Sixers, who had a streak going of their own, winning eight straight games before they came to Washington.
Avdija played 20 minutes and pitched in with seven points and three assists. He said his back felt fine, but his physical conditioning was affected by the short layoff.
"I was a little winded, I'm not going to lie. Five days takes some time, it throws you off a little bit," he said.
Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said he watched Avdija work out in the morning and was a bit concerned with how he would fare against the Sixers and the physical match-ups he was in line for on the defensive end. But he was pleased with how Avdija handled the contact and how he moved up and down the floor.
Avdija did not start the game despite being the Wizards' usual starter at the three. Unseld Jr. instead continued using a frontcourt trio of Kyle Kuzma, Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford, as it has worked for the Wizards in recent games.
Avdija, though, played well enough to be part of the closing lineup as the Wizards saw a 16-point lead turn into a close game down the stretch. He was part of a group that polished off the win after Bradley Beal exited with a hamstring injury.
Avdija arguably had the defensive play which sealed the win for the Wizards, as he stripped Sixers superstar Joel Embiid on a drive to the basket with 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Wizards were clinging to a three-point lead and hadn't scored in over two minutes of game time.
"I knew that [Gafford] needed help. I think I'm really good at stripping the ball," Avdija said of the play. "That's about it. I was focused, I was at the right time and in the right place. I went for the ball and I guess it ended up being a great play that helped us win the game."
After Avdija jarred the ball loose from Embiid, point guard Monte Morris grabbed it for the defensive rebound. He was quickly fouled by the Sixers, stopping the play and allowing the crowd and Avdija's teammates to celebrate the change in momentum.
Morris then knocked down both free throws to give the Wizards a five-point lead. It was the cushion they needed to pull out the win, their third in four games.
"That was big-time," Porzingis said. [Avdija is] the best when he plays instinctively. It's risky, it's risky to get your hands in there against a guy like Embiid or [James] Harden. But on that one, he risked it and he got rewarded. He was on the good end."