The Wizards saw a comeback effort come up just short on Friday night in Charlotte, falling to the Hornets 117-116. Led by Bradley Beal’s season-high 33 points, Washington cut a 22-point Charlotte lead late in the third quarter down to one point in the closing minutes.
“We don’t ever want to find ourselves down 22,” Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said postgame. “It’s a game of runs, but spotting a team that type of margin is tough to overcome.”
Beal shot 12-of-24 from the field and added six rebounds and seven assists to his season-best scoring total.
Setting the pace for the Hornets: a trio of 20-point nights from Terry Rozier (25), former Wizard Kelly Oubre Jr. (22) and PJ Washington (21).
The Wizards fell behind early as the Hornets opened the game shooting 7-of-9 from the field to take an 18-7 lead just four minutes into the contest. Washington answered with a run of their own, cutting the Charlotte advantage to 24-22 with four minutes left in the opening frame.
The Wizards keeping the game within reach in the early going was thanks mostly to Corey Kispert, whose 3-of-3 start from beyond the arc kick-started a 14-point night for the sophomore. He finished the game shooting 5-of-8 from the field, 4-of-7 from three and grabbed five rebounds.
Charlotte, however maintained a double-digit lead for most of the second and third quarters.
Washington closed the third quarter cold, going over four minutes without a field goal. The fourth, however, looked significantly different. Over an eight-minute span, Washington went on a 27-8 run to pull back within reach.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” Unseld Jr. said. “That’s all you can ask for. It’s a shame we don’t come up with the win, but getting down to that extent and still making it a ball game is noteworthy.”
A key component of the team’s late push? Unseld Jr.’s decision to utilize Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford simultaneously in the frontcourt. After struggling on the boards in the early going, the Wizards went on to finish the night with a season-high 56 rebounds and a season-high 18 offensive rebounds.
Both Porzingis and Gafford packed the stat sheet. Porzingis totaled 21 points despite shooting 0-of-6 from three and grabbed 11 rebounds. Gafford recorded a double-double of his own, his second of the season, with 10 points and 12 rebounds to go along with six blocks.
The matchup was already the third of the season between the two teams, with Washington now leading the series 2-1. The season series will wrap up on January 8 at Capital One Arena.
Next up, the Wizards return to D.C. to host the Lakers at 6 p.m. at Capital One Arena.