The Charlotte Hornets came out of the gates slowly against the Washington Wizards, but turned it around to control the majority of the game thanks to big nights from Miles Bridges and Gordon Hayward before falling to the late-game hot hands of Kyle Kuzma and Bradley Beal, 124-121.
Hayward opened the game with a catch-and-shoot three from the right wing. The Hornets were engaged offensively to start, but not defensively — stop me if you’ve seen that before. Beal and Kuzma took advantage of the holes in Charlotte’s defense, and the Wizards got out to a 19-9 lead midway through the first.
The Hornets’ efficiency dropped off as the quarter went on despite continuing to produce good looks. Kelly Oubre Jr. provided a spark off the bench, scoring seven points in his first seven minutes, but the Wizards led 38-25 after one. Washington shot 59.1 percent from the field and made five threes as a team.
Charlotte opened the second on a 6-0 run but Beal ended it on a 10-footer. The Hornets forced a couple of turnovers early to get the Wizards out of rhythm offensively and it helped extended their run to 14-6, cutting the deficit to five with 6:54 left until halftime.
With Bridges and Hayward running the offense, the Hornets came back and took hold of the game expeditiously. The defense continued to apply pressure to ball-handlers, and Washington’s shooters cooled off as they went 1-9 from distance. Bridges and Hayward combined for 21 points in the frame as the Hornets took a 64-56 lead into the locker room. Bridges had 17 points and nine rebounds while Hayward put up 15, three rebounds and three assists.
LaMelo Ball canned a deep triple to open the second half. Hayward and Terry Rozier knocked down consecutive pull-ups from the right elbow, taking advantage of the mid-range looks the Wizards had been allowing for most of the night.
Beal and Kuzma were the only consistent sources of offense for Washington throughout the game, and they (mostly Beal) helped them put together a run in the middle of the third that cut the Hornets’ lead to single-digits for the remainder of the quarter. Bridges got up to 21 points and 11 rebounds for the double-double and Hayward had 20 and six. The Hornets led 90-84 after three.
The Hornets committed four team fouls as the Wizards went on an 11-0 run to begin the fourth, forcing Borrego into a timeout with the Hornets down 95-90. Hayward and Rozier would soon quell Washington’s run, and Rozier buried a corner three to put the Hornets back on top, 100-98 with 6:44 to go.
The game went back-and-forth early in crunch time, with the Hornets maintaining a small lead. Beal and Kuzma caught fire in a heartbeat, and even though Charlotte was playing well defensively, making crisp rotations and displaying effort, it didn’t matter — both players were unconscious down the stretch. Rozier made a couple of timely three-pointers on his way to 16 in the fourth, but missed the tying attempt down 116-113 with 39.6 seconds left. Beal, Bertans, Gafford and Kuzma all hit free-throws to ice the game and Charlotte fell, 124-121.
Hayward put up 27 points on 11-22 from the floor, adding eight rebounds and four assists. Bridges finished with 24 and 14 boards along with four assists and four steals. Rozier turned in 25 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals while Ball had 18 points and four rebounds. Mason Plumlee tallied eight points, seven rebounds and seven assists on a perfect 4-4 shooting.
Charlotte shot 48.1 percent (50-104) from the field, 36.8 percent (14-38) from deep and 53.8 percent (7-13) from the charity stripe. Washington shot 46 percent (40-87) from the field, 42.1 percent (16-38) from downtown and 90.3 percent (28-31) from the line. The Hornets turned the ball over nine times (eight points) to the Wizards’ 15 (28 points).
Tonight’s takeaways; points off turnovers brought Charlotte back in the 2Q; excellent game from Hayward, need his shooting back; Rozier clutch buckets but some really blatant defensive miscues in first half; McDaniels showing tons of flashes as a finisher/shot-creator off the bounce, great to see; one of Oubre’s worst games even after he had a decent start; inefficient game from Ball but didn’t seem like he was forcing anything; another solid game for Plum; MILES BRIDGES FOR ALL-STAR 2022!