The Wizards beat the Hornets 109-106 on Wednesday evening in a game that featured, John Wall setting a new franchise record, Bradley Beal setting a new personal best, a strong performance from the Wizards’ bench, one of the team’s best quarters of the season, and an ending that nearly made all of it meaningless.
The first half was a battle of contrasting styles. The Wizards were getting into the paint with ease and forcing turnovers, but the Hornets were overcoming it with efficient outside shooting. It was a back-and-forth battle, but Charlotte was able to keep Washington at bay for most of the first half, taking a five point lead into halftime.
The Wizards finally tied it up early in the third quarter, but then the Hornets ripped off a 10-0 run in less than two minutes that looked like it might set the tone for the second half. But that’s when the Wizards flipped the script. They uncorked a 17-3 run of their own to take the lead en route to a quarter where they outscored Charlotte 38-23 to take a 10 point lead into the fourth.
After surviving a quick run of Marco Bellinelli threes that made things tight, it looked like the Wizards had things all wrapped up after Bradley Beal sank a pair of free throws with 24.6 seconds left to put Washington up by 6. But Charlotte responded quickly with a Kemba Walker shot, then they stole the ensuing inbounds pass which led to a quick Cody Zeller layup. To make things worse, Wall went 1-2 at the free throw line, which gave Charlotte the ball down by 3 with 9.6 seconds left. The Hornets got two three-pointers off on the final possession, but neither one made it in, and the Wizards were able to escape with their lives and one of their best wins of the season to date.
Here’s what we noticed in the Wizards’ 10th win of the season:
Washington’s small lineup comes through
Just a few short hours after I made my case for why the Wizards should take it slow with their lineup that features Kelly Oubre, Otto Porter, and Marcin Gortat, they were forced to start it against the Hornets after Markieff Morris was ruled out with a foot injury. As a result, we got our first real look at how the lineup fares against a quality opponent for a full game.
The Wall, Beal, Oubre, Porter, Gortat lineup logged 25 minutes and finished a +6 on the night. That’s solid, but not spectacular, which should be expected. It’s not really so much of a question whether this lineup is better or worse than the normal starting lineup, it’s just a matter of whether not you can take advantage of what makes each lineup different.
Wall owns another franchise record
The Hornets came into Wednesday’s game averaging only 11.8 turnovers per game, the second-lowest average in the league, but the Wizards took them way out of their element. John Wall led the way with 7 of the team’s 15 steals on the night. With his 7 steals, he moved ahead of Greg Ballard for the most steals in franchise history.
With this steal, John Wall has passed Greg Ballard for most steals (762) in @WashWizards history! #NBAGIF #DCFamily pic.twitter.com/S8STwzIP7Q— NBA (@NBA) December 15, 2016
Beal’s passing continues to develop
On a night when Bradley Beal’s shot wasn’t falling, Beal compensated with the best passing game of his career. He had a career-high 9 assists and only one turnover. His contributions in the passing department were especially important in this game, where he and Wall were the only players who had more than 2 assists.
The bench had another solid night
The Wizards’ bench continued their recent run of surprisingly good play, even though Kelly Oubre was moved up into the starting lineup. Trey Burke and Marcus Thornton both shot the ball efficiently, combining to make 7 of their 14 shots, and Jason Smith had a nice little game, racking up 12 points and 7 rebounds.
It would be nice if the team could figure out a way to get Andrew Nicholson (0 points and 0 rebounds in 4 minutes of action) and Tomas Satoransky (DNP-CD) more involved, but still, what we’ve seen over the past few games has been a nice step in the right direction.