The Hornets started the game with confidence. They blitzed the Wizards out of the gate and played like they were riding a win streak. They were forceful attacking the basket, and PJ Washington even dribbled back to the 3-point line to drill a corner three with his first shot of the game. Head coach Steve Clifford rode the starters for a longer-than-normal amount of time, and they rewarded him by scoring a quick 20 points to take an early nine points. He also made an interesting rotational decision entering Bryce McGowens into the lineup in the first quarter while James Bouknight stayed planted as the only DNP-CD on the roster for the evening. The Hornets rolled to 36 points and held a five point lead heading into the second quarter.
The Hornets hustle and intensity earned them their tenth offensive rebound of the game less than one minute into the second quarter. Kelly Oubre’s scoring and Terry Rozier’s assisting spearheaded another 30 point quarter as the Hornets built on their first quarter lead. Bradley Beal went step for step with the Hornets as a team and single handedly kept the game from getting completely out of reach. He scored 14 straight points for the Wizards that cut into a Hornets lead that grew as large as 18. A step back PJ Washington three put the Hornets up 15 at the halftime intermission.
The Wizards chipped into the Hornets lead in the early parts of the fourth quarter due to some cold shooting from the Hornets. PJ stopped the run with another off-the-dribble 3-pointer, one of three for him in the quarter. Jalen McDaniels bullied his way to the rim for a layup and some free throws and Kelly Oubre hit a three as the Hornets rebuilt their lead. It grew as large as 21 after a Bryce McGowens free throw. The Wizards answered with a mini-spurt, but the Hornets took a 19 point lead and 107 points into the fourth quarter. McGowens tried to jam on Daniel Gafford in the final seconds, but he didn’t quite get up enough.
19 point leads are normally safe in the NBA. Not this one. The Wizards slowly chipped away at the Hornets leads while the Hornets could not make anything from the field. They made just three of their first 15 shot attempts of the fourth quarter, so even a mediocre Wizards was able to reduce the deficit. Where the Hornets got into the paint with regularity in the first three quarters, the offense was heavily reliant on difficult jumpers and floaters in the fourth. PJ Washington made one of those floaters for the Hornets fourth made shot and 10th point of the quarter with 3:47 remaining. It would be the last shot the Hornets would make in the game. Bradley Beal again lifted the Wizards, and his reverse layup at the 2:30 mark brought the Wizards within one. The score at that time was 117-116 (look familiar?).
From that point on, the Hornets would trade missed pull-up jumpers with Bradley Beal turnovers before Beal finally got a shot up on the Wizards last possession, which flew just a bit long. PJ secured the rebound and the win. Neither team scored a point in the final 2:30 in the game.
The first three quarters were exactly the brand of basketball the Hornets want to play. They shared the ball well, were super active on the glass, and attacked the paint relentlessly. They defended well and built what should have been a comfortable lead without any notable spurts of exceedingly hot scoring. The fourth quarter was representative of every problem the Hornets have had this season. The offense looked disjointed and the shots didn’t go down while they repeatedly put the Wizards on the free throw line on the other end. The Hornets made four of 23 shots from the field and none of their seven 3-point attempts in the fourth, but thankfully they did enough work in the first three quarters to hang on.
Terry Rozier (25), Kelly Oubre (22), and PJ Washington (21) led the way in the score column. Rozier added eight assists to his tally while Oubre added two steals and numerous other deflections. Plumlee had one of his stronger games of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The Hornets will have a quick turnaround and face the Milwaukee Bucks on a back to back on Saturday evening.