Charlotte Hornets v Washington Wizards
WASHINGTON, DC -  MAY 16: Bradley Beal #3 and Russell Westbrook #4 of the Washington Wizards hi-five during the game against the Charlotte Hornets on May 16, 2021 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC.
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Recap: Beal, Westbrook lead Wizards to 115-110 win in regular season finale

FINAL: Wizards 115 | Hornets 110

BOX SCORE | HIGHLIGHTS

SCORING LEADERS

Wizards: Bradley Beal (25), Russell Westbrook (23), Robin Lopez (18)

Hornets: Terry Rozier (22), LaMelo Ball (19), Miles Bridges (17)

SUMMARY

The Wizards defeated the Hornets 115-110 on Sunday afternoon at Capital One Arena in the final game of the regular season. Washington finishes the season eighth in the Eastern Conference and now advances to the NBA Play-In Tournament, which begins on Tuesday night. Russell Westbrook finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, the 184th triple-double of his career and his 38th of the season. Bradley Beal scored a game-high 25 points, including 13 in the decisive fourth quarter.

Rui Hachimura knocked down a pair of mid-range jumpers on the Wizards’ first two possessions of the game, but Washington struggled to keep Charlotte in check in the early going. After a Davis Bertans 3-pointer put the Wizards up two just over three minutes into the game, the Hornets went on a 16-3 run to take an 11-point lead just three minutes later. Washington shot 10-26 (.385) from the field and 1-7 (.143) from 3-point range and trailed by as many as 16 in the first. The Wizards fared much better in the second quarter, opening on a 15-4 run and cutting the lead to three points on Bradley Beal’s first points of the night. Beal was a game-time decision after missing the last three games with a left hamstring strain. Washington kept the game within reach throughout the rest of the second quarter, but could not get any closer than three points – and trailed 56-52 at halftime. The Wizards’ defense held the Hornets to 20 points on 8-25 (.320) from the field and 2-12 (.167) from 3-point range.

Early in the third quarter, Bertans hit his third three of the day to cut the Hornets’ lead to 65-62. Bertans finished 3-7 (.428) from 3-point range and has now hit three-plus 3-pointers in four of his last five games. Charlotte countered with a 7-0 run to go back up by double-digits, eventually going up by 15 with less than three minutes to go in the third. The Wizards cut the lead to eight on a Westbrook layup with 30 seconds left in the third, but a 3-pointer from Terry Rozier put the Hornets back up 11 going into the fourth quarter. From 2:41 left in the third quarter to 7:39 left in the fourth, Washington went on a 27-10 run to take a two-point lead. Threes by Beal and Westbrook fueled the run, which was capped by a fast-break layup from Ish Smith. Charlotte answered with an 11-4 run to re-take the lead and go up five on a put-back layup by Rozier with 4:35 left. From that point on, the Wizards’ veterans stepped up. Beal and Robin Lopez scored on consecutive possessions, each assisted by Westbrook, to spark a 12-2 run to close the game. After Charlotte missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer with 13 seconds left in the game, Beal knocked down a pair of free throws to put Washington up 115-110 and seal the win.

THREE THINGS TO KNOW

Wizards clinch pivotal eight-seed in Play-In Tournament

With the win, the Wizards secure the eight-seed in the upcoming NBA Play-In Tournament, where they will face the Celtics on Tuesday night in Boston for the seven-seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The Wizards, Hornets and Pacers each entered the final day of the regular season with same record. Jumping Charlotte and Indiana for eighth place creates a much more favorable path through the Play-In. Washington only needs to win one game to advance to the Playoffs and can afford to lose once before being eliminated. Seeds 9-10 (Indiana and Charlotte) will play one another on Tuesday night in the other East Play-In game. The loser of the game will be eliminated from postseason contention and the winner will advance to play the loser of Wizards-Celtics for the eight-seed in the Playoffs.

Washington’s season-long path to the Play-In Tournament was riddled with ups and downs. A slow start to the season was worsened by a 13-day mid-season hiatus due to health and safety protocols. The team won seven of eight games just before the All-Star break, but fell to 17-32 on the season after losing eight of nine to start the second half. Since April 7, the Wizards lead the NBA in wins (17) and rank top-10 in net rating.

Washington backcourt steps up in second half

Beal and Westbrook struggled in the first half, combining for just 11 points on 4-19 (.210) from the field, but the Wizards’ backcourt duo came alive in the second half to lead the team’s comeback. Both hit timely threes in the fourth quarter as Washington turned a 15-point deficit into a two-point lead with 7:39 left in the game. Beal scored 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter. Westbrook played the entire fourth, totaling eight points, three rebounds and three assists, two of which came on the Wizards’ game-winning run in the final minutes. Both guards finished plus-16 in the fourth quarter.

Beal, Westbrook close historic regular seasons in style

Sunday’s game capped a pair of historic seasons for Beal and Westbrook in their first season playing alongside one another. Beal finished the season averaging 31.3 points per game, his second consecutive season averaging over 30.0 points per game and his second in a row leading the Eastern Conference in scoring. Beal is just the sixth player since the NBA-ABA merger to average over 30.0 points per game in back-to-back seasons and becomes the first player in franchise history to average 30-plus points twice. Only Walt Bellamy’s 31.6 points-per-game average ranks higher than Beal’s scoring rates the last two seasons. Beal finished the season trailing only Golden State’s Stephen Curry in points per game.

With 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists on Sunday, Westbrook finishes his first regular season in Washington with new career highs in both rebounds (11.5) and assists (11.7) per game – and averaged a triple-double for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Westbrook’s 11.7 assists per game give him his third league-wide assist title and set a new single-season franchise record, surpassing John Wall’s 2016-17 average of 10.7. This season, Westbrook recorded 50 games with 10-plus assists despite playing in just 65 games. Only John Wall’s 52 games with 10-plus assists (in an 82-game season) rank higher in franchise history. Westbrook’s 11.5 rebounds per game this season are the most by a guard in franchise history and the most by any Wizards player since Jeff Ruland grabbed 12.3 boards per game in 1984-84.

NEXT UP: Wizards at Celtics / Tuesday, May 18 / 9:00 P.M. / TD Garden

HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT

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