Rochester basketball at the NBA level: Bryant, Stewart put teams in the win column

Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell (0) controls the ball against Washington Wizards center Thomas Bryant (13) in the first quarter at Target Center. (Photo: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports)

By JOHN LIKANJE

The Detroit Pistons (0-4) and Washington Wizards (0-5) entered the New Year as the NBA’s remaining winless teams. At the end of the inaugural day of the calendar year, that ceased to be the case and both squads can thank the lone Rochester natives on their roster. Thomas Bryant and Isaiah Stewart were integral in their teams’ first win of the season. Here is a breakdown of how the Section V alumni performed:

Thomas Bryant

Game result: 130-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves
Game statistics: 18 points on 7-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-4 from the free throw line and 1-of-1 from long range, seven rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes

If Thomas Bryant continues to score the majority of his points in the third quarter, he’ll be awarded a new nickname by the Wizards’ faithful sooner rather than later. The former Bishop Kearney star netted nine of his 18 points in the period as the team exploded for 40 overall and blew the game open.

Bryant wasted no time getting on the board, swishing a right-wing three-pointer on the contest’s opening possession. The 6-foot-10 center continued with an alley-oop finish off Deni Avdija’s lob, a free throw line jumper and a putback dunk for his nine first-half points.

In the third quarter, Bryant and the Wizards poured it on. Individually, he made two free throws, pushed in a hook shot while being fouled, converted an easy dunk thanks to Bradley Beal breaking down the defense and threading the needle and then finished a three-point play in which he flushed the rock off Avdija’s feed.

With the Wizards up by 28 as he subbed out for Robin Lopez, Bryant took a well-deserved fourth-quarter rest on the second half of a back-to-back. The Wizards look to carry their momentum into Sunday night as they take on the Brooklyn Nets. Game is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Barclays Center.

Isaiah Stewart

Game result: 96-93 victory over the Boston Celtics
Game statistics: Eight points on 3-of-5 shooting and five rebounds in 18 minutes

With the absences of Blake Griffin (concussion) and Jahlil Okafor (right ankle sprain), Isaiah Stewart’s number was called upon for the third straight game. This time, he was Mason Plumlee’s direct backup as the former Duke big man accounted for the other 30 minutes played at the center position.

Stewart made a layup in the first quarter in which the Pistons surged to a 27-12 lead. The former McQuaid star continued with another layup to start the second period, a dunk and a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter.

As of now, there has been no update on whether Griffin will be ready in time for Sunday’s rematch. Considering it’s a matinee scheduled for 3 p.m., it wouldn’t be surprising if the Pistons elected to rest him even if he was eligible to play. Otherwise, it appears Stewart is finally in Dwane Casey’s good graces and has earned the meaningful playing time he has worked hard for since being drafted.

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