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Wizards struggle to defend perimeter in 122-105 loss to Hornets
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Back home for the first time since February 8, the Wizards struggled to control the ball and to defend the perimeter in an 122-105 loss to the Hornets. Charlotte has had Washington's number all season, and that continued again on Friday night. Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 33 points and Otto Porter Jr. added 16 points. The Hornets made 17-of-39 3-pointers and scored 28 points off 14 Wizards turnovers. Frank Kaminsky led the Hornets with 25 points off the bench.
Kelly Oubre Jr. led the Wizards in scoring in the opening quarter with seven points, providing a spark off the bench. The Wizards would struggle to defend the Hornets, however, giving up 36 points on 15-of-25 (60.0%) field goals. Nicolas Batum had eight points and six assists in the opening quarter. He scored or assisted on 22 of the Hornets' first 31 points, setting up Dwight Howard for three different lob alley-oops. Charlotte assisted on 12 of its 15 first quarter field goals, and scored 12 points on six Wizards turnovers. The Hornets led 36-26 after one.
Defensive struggles continued for the Wizards in the second quarter, with Frank Kaminsky and Michael Carter-Williams combining for 16 points. Trailing by as many as 20, Beal scored nine and Porter seven to get the Wizards back in it with a 15-7 run. Beal stole the ball with 1.4 seconds left in the half and nailed a triple from the corner to bring the game within 12 points at the half. The difference in the first half for the Wizards was 11 turnovers for 23 Hornets points off turnovers and 9-of-17 3-point shooting for Charlotte.
Beal and Kemba Walker dominated the third quarter, scoring 14 and 15 points respectively. While the rest of their teams struggled to get anything going, the two All-Star guards battled back and forth. Beal made 6-of-10 field goals in the third, while Walker made 5-of-9. Walker was held to only 1-of-6 first half shooting for four points, but would find his rhythm in the second half and finish with 24 points.
“They're a really good team," Walker said of the Wizards. "We have to play a certain way to beat these guys because of how good they are and how much talent they have on their team. We're just really locked in against those guys.”
The Wizards trailed by 12 once again at the end of the third, waiting to make the key run to take their first lead of the game. The Hornets used a 9-0 run in the beginning of the fourth quarter to slowly but surely put away the Wizards. Washington struggled to string together stops, as the Hornets would go on to lead by as many as 22 and win by 17.
Beal scored 21 points in the second half, finishing with 33 points on 11-of-21 shooting, including 3-of-6 from deep and 8-of-9 from the free throw line. His playmaking continued with six assists, and he willed the Wizards back into the game.
Still, his performance was not enough as the Hornets won the season series for the first time since the 2013-14 season, when they were still the Bobcats.
“Night and day, man," Oubre said of the difference between the loss and Thursday night's win over Cleveland. "When we play the basketball that we are used to playing, that we succeed from, we reap the benefits. Tonight, we didn’t do that. We just got to get better each and every game and continue to stay together.”
The Wizards (34-25) will host the Sixers on Sunday at 8:00pm in the first of four national TV games next week. Washington will play teams currently in the playoff picture in 13 straight games.
“I view it as a good thing," Beal said of the upcoming schedule. "I love competition, anyway. I’m sure the rest of my teammates do as well. We’re not backing down from it, but I think at the same time it’s going to prepare us moving forward. Just a few of them we may potentially face, and teams out West are going to challenge us as well. It’s definitely going to battle test us in a variety of ways.”