The Washington Wizards (16-31) defeated the Charlotte Hornets (16-32) last night to edge ahead of the Hornets in the Eastern Conference standings. The 11th place Wizards won the game 121-107 against the 12th place Hornets. The Wizards have won four of their last six games overall but have won five of their last six home games. The Hornets have dropped nine of their last ten games.
Bradley Beal, who found out just before tip-off that he had not been selected for the All-Star team, had an impressive 34 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Beal has been on an absolute tear over his last five games (39 points per) so this was not unexpected. The real pleasant surprise was Thomas Bryant’s 21 points and 8 rebounds. Coach Scott Brooks has been easing Bryant back into the flow of things as he returns from injury. This performance looked a lot more like the player Wizards’ fans expected to see at the beginning of the year.
The Hornets lead 33-26 after the first quarter and it looked like another one of “those” nights where the Wizards would be a little flat. Beal had 15 points to keep the Wizards competitive while the Hornets seemingly got everyone involved.
The second quarter looked a bit better for the Wizards as Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr. gave them a bit of a spark. Beal was once again the story of the quarter though, with 10 additional points. He finished the first half with 25 points and helped cut the Hornets lead down to only five at halftime (60-55).
IT sparks impressive third quarter
The Wizards jumped all over the Hornets in the third quarter, outscoring them 31-19. While lots of Wizards got involved, Isaiah Thomas looked like the player the Wizards hoped for at the start of the season. He came up big in the third with 11 points on 3-for-5 three-point shooting. Bonga also stood out with 5 points and 3 rebounds in the third. Most importantly, he drilled a three-pointer that looked much cleaner than his usual attempts. Hopefully, that is a sign of some long-term progress!
“I thought IT [Isaiah Thomas] did a great job. I thought he was doing a good job. Their guards are tough. [Terry] Rozier and [Devonte’] Graham can flat-out score,” said Scott Brooks on the third quarter. “We just played better defense. We played smarter, we played harder. We played with more physicality. In the first half, I think we gave up three and ones and they were easy and ones. I don’t even think the guy that scored the bucket didn’t even realize he was fouled. I don’t think that happened in the second half.”
Cruise control down the stretch
The Wizards only lead 86-79 after three quarters but it just sort of felt like they had this one in the bag. To me, at least. I can’t remember feeling that way too many times this season. Beal seemed like he could turn it on if needed, Bertans seemed to be saving all of his 30-foot three-pointers in case of emergency, Bryant was rolling, Thomas was hot, and Devonte’ Graham didn’t seem to be on his game for the Hornets.
The fourth quarter was mostly controlled by Bertans, Bryant, Brown Jr., and Ish Smith for the Wizards. Beal had another five points but only need five more minutes of playing time to do it. The Wizards cruised to a nice 121-107. They outscored the Hornets 66-47 in the second half.
Hornets coach James Borrego was a bit dismissive of the Wizards’ second-half efforts. “Not a whole lot they did. We missed shots. We had good looks in the third quarter. We had free throws in the third quarter. We couldn’t knock those down. We couldn’t knock down open shots –led to some poor defense and it cost us the game.” I think the Wizards and their fans would disagree.
The Wizards’ next game is Saturday at 8 p.m. at home against the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets (20-26) are currently the 8th seed in the East and 4.5 games up on the Wizards. If the Wizards are hoping to still make a playoff push, this would be a good opportunity to make up some ground.