With Bradley Beal coming off the bench due to a minutes restriction, Randy Wittman went with a starting lineup of Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley, Garrett Temple and John Wall. Though the spacing left much to be desired, crafty playmaking from Wall and a combination of playmaking and shooting from Dudley kept the Wizards offense working early. The game was tied at the end of the first quarter, 25-25.
The second quarter was the Otto Porter show. Playing many of his minutes at power forward (next to either Drew Gooden or Gortat at center), Porter scored 17 points in the quarter, hitting threes, midrange fadeaways, and scoring in transition. On the other end of the floor, perimeter-happy big men Spencer Hawes and Frank Kaminsky couldn't manage to leverage their size against him in the post. The Wizards lead by as many as 19 points.
But even at the end of the third quarter, the cracks were beginning to show. Lineups featuring Ramon Sessions and Gary Neal struggled mightily to contain Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lin, and Jeremy Lamb. When Dudley returned to the game and Porter slid back over to the wing, he struggled to defend Nicolas Batum. A Batum-fueled 10-1 run left the Wizards up just 10 at the end of the first half.
With the Hornets turning a little more attention to Porter in the third quarter, the lack of spacing dried up the Wizards offense. Gortat, in particular, struggled as his rolls to the rim were all in heavy traffic. Temple, Neal, and Sessions shot a combined 0/8 from three for the game, giving the Hornets little incentive to unpack the paint. The Hornets clawed their way back, taking the lead in the middle of the third with a Batum dunk.
The game remained close, but the Wizards failed to get stops when they needed them. The Wizards trailed by three with two seconds remaining in the game. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist fouled Wall, who made his first free throw to cut the deficit to 2. Wall intentionally missed the second attempt, but the Hornets secured the rebound. The Wizards were forced to foul and Walker made both, putting the game away.
The Wizards are now five games below .500, and 3.5 games out of the playoffs. After getting his fourth career triple-double last night against the Sixers, Wall finished tonight with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 10 assists. Otto Porter quieted down after his hot start, scoring just two points in the second half. He finished with 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals.
Bradley Beal continues to shine in limited minutes
Beal, playing in his first back-to-back since returning from his most recent stress injury, came off the bench due to a minutes restriction. He made the most of his time on the floor, scoring 22 points and dishing 3 assists in 20 minutes of play. He was also arguably played the best defense on Batum of any Wizard, with excellent ball denial.
The Wizards will only get better as Beal is able to play more, and the second unit defense will get a major boost from Temple's return to the bench.
Kelly Oubre (mostly) rides the bench
Despite the Wizards defensive issues, Oubre saw just 4 minutes of action tonight, all at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Despite performing well as a starter while Porter was injured, Oubre has found himself out of the rotation. Instead, Wittman has relied heavily on Gary Neal, as well as using Sessions as the third guard alongside Wall and Beal. Oubre was understandably rusty in his few minutes of play, immediately stepping out of bounds with the ball. Still, the defense noticeably improved with him on the floor.