Kemba Walker scored 47 points, including 24 in the fourth quarter, but his solo attempt at a miraculous comeback fell short as the Charlotte Hornets lost to the Washington Wizards, 130-126.
Jeff Green opened the scoring with a leaning 21-footer at the first shot clock buzzer. A Bradley Beal jumper was answered by a 12-3 Hornets run, prompting a Scott Brooks timeout. The Hornets defense evaporated late in the period. A sequence in which the Wizards followed back to back dunks with an uncontested layup forced James Borrego to call his second timeout in less than two minutes of game time. A Michael Kidd-Gilchrist put back at the buzzer put the Hornets up 29-27 after one.
The Wizards bench dominated the second quarter. With 7:32 left in the second, Sam Dekker drove to the basket for his fifth bucket at the rim without a miss. At that point, the Wizards bench had made all ten of their shots for 26 points. The Hornets offense, and Kemba Walker in particular, scored efficiently, but the team couldn’t get stops on the defensive end. The Wizards scored 34 points in the paint and shot 57% from the field in the first half, and as a result went into the break with a 67-61 lead.
The Wizards extended that lead to ten before the Hornets went on a 6-0 run to get back within arm’s reach. The teams traded baskets for the rest of period, and both teams struggled to get stops. In the process, the Hornets cut the deficit down to two, 94-92, heading into the fourth quarter.
Devonte’ Graham and Malik Monk scored the first six point of the fourth for the Hornets before Walker hit a wild 3-pointer while getting fouled, but the Hornets still couldn’t close the gap. Finally, with 6:16 left in the game, Kidd-Gilchrist evened the score with a driving layup. Walker put the Hornets ahead on the next possession with a mid-range jump shot, but the lead was quickly wiped away by an 8-0 Wizards run. While Walker did his best to keep the Hornets alive, the Wizards hit seven consecutive shots to seemingly put the game out of reach. The Wizards missed free throws and turned the ball over down the stretch while Kemba Walker got hot, but the Hornets ultimately ran out of time.
After a promising defensive performance on Friday night, the Hornets faltered mightily on that end tonight. The Wizards scored 64 points in the paint and shot 52% from the field. The defensive issues were compounded by 16 Hornets turnovers that led to 21 Wizards points. No play better illustrated the defensive struggles than a late layup by Tomas Santoransky. After Walker made a layup to bring the Hornets within four with just over three minutes to go, Graham and Batum got their wires crossed left the Wizards guard uncovered in the corner. Bradley Beal found him, and he drove in for an easy layup.
Cody Zeller struggled mightily after a strong first run of play. He finished the game with six turnovers and five fouls. His backup, Willy Hernangomez, didn’t do much better. He hit just one of five shots and struggled on defense. Devonte’ Graham showed well in the absence of Tony Paker, scoring a career high 11 points on four of six shooting, though he had his fair share of defensive lapses as well.
The Hornets will again look to bounce back at home, this time at home on New Year’s Eve against Steve Clifford and the Orlando Magic.