Jared Butler accepts the challenge in Bilal Coulibaly's absence

Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards
Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

On Sunday, the Washington Wizards opened a brief two-game homestand by welcoming in the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team entered this matchup shorthanded, missing Deni Avdija for a second consecutive game due to a heel injury and Corey Kispert, who was ailed by a non-COVID illness.

The Wizards suffered another setback early in the first quarter, losing Bilal Coulibaly to a pelvis injury after the rookie landed awkwardly on a dunk attempt. In his absence, the Wizards turned to 23-year-old guard Jared Butler, a former second-round pick of the New Orleans Pelicans.

In the end, the Wizards were unable to pull off the improbable win over the Cavaliers, dropping the game by a score of 114-105. However, the team's energy was admirable as coach Brian Keefe convinced his players to buy in and play competitive basketball from wire to wire.

156. Wizards-Cavaliers (2/25/24). 105. 142. Final. 114

Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma combined for 58 of Washington's 105 total points, taking full advantage of the newly-staggered rotation. With the absence of several key players the Wizards rely upon on both ends of the floor, the team needed production from some unfamiliar places, and Butler delivered.

Jared Butler seizes the opportunity for shorthanded Wizards

Late in the first quarter, Butler checked in for Tyus Jones and quickly got to work guarding Cleveland's top scoring option, Donovan Mitchell. Butler held his own against the five-time All-Star, playing strong defense and forcing Mitchell off the ball. As a result, Mitchell recorded his fewest shot attempts in a game since January of last season.

The 12 minutes Butler supplied off the bench for the Wizards helped showcase his capabilities as an on-ball defender as well as his skills as a playmaker. In the third quarter, Butler drove down the lane and tossed up a no-look alley oop pass to Richaun Holmes, who completed the play with a devastating one-handed slam.

Should Coulibaly miss an extended period of time, the Wizards can feel comfortable depending on Butler as a legitimate option in their rotation. The second-year guard signed a two-way contract with the Wizards last July and has recently started to make a name for himself among fans in the District.

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