Six games in 11 days made for heavy legs and a longer injury report, but the sacrifice was worth it for the Washington Wizards. They beat the Charlotte Hornets, 106-102, on Sunday night at Capital One Arena to close their longest homestand of the season with an impressive 5-1 record.
The Wizards, who have won six of seven overall, improved to 10-7 on the season.
“We are still trying to find ourselves as a team,” said Kyle Kuzma, who had 28 points and 10 rebounds. “… But anytime you can take care of homestands and win at home, that’s extremely important because it’s extremely hard to win on the road.”
Sunday’s bout with the Hornets (4-14) was close but anticlimactic compared with Friday’s one-point, overtime win over the Miami Heat — even after Bradley Beal walked to the locker room with 15.8 seconds to play after taking a knee to the quadriceps. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. had no update on his star guard after the game.
Washington was more in control throughout, perhaps because the issues that kept the game tight came not from a wonky zone defense or unfamiliar players on the opposing team but from within the Wizards’ house.
Starting point guard Monte Morris and backup forward Rui Hachimura were sidelined with ankle soreness, absences that shifted guard Corey Kispert to the starting lineup and left Washington’s bench bereft of Hachimura’s reliable scoring. The result was even more lethargy among an already flat second unit.
Center Taj Gibson was again called on to change the group’s energy as second-string big man Daniel Gafford sat the entire second half.
“I think it’s been tough; the physicality I think has got to him a bit. I think Taj has done a good job of being more aggressive. He pressures the ball, does some things like that naturally,” Unseld said. “… I think Taj just has a little bit more expertise in these scenarios that help him.”
Said Kuzma: “He really doesn’t make too many mistakes.”
The margin for error was thin, and Washington made just enough plays in the second half to stay ahead. Eleven first-half turnovers shrank to six, and the Wizards held the Hornets to 33.3 percent shooting.
Offensively, the Wizards did just enough to make up for the biggest self-created issue of the night: an off game by Kristaps Porzingis. The Latvian ended up with 12 points but made just 4 of 19 attempts from the field.
“He’s going to have those nights. Hopefully they’re far and few between, but he’s shot the ball at such an exceptional level, it’s almost like he was due for one of those nights,” Unseld said. “… We defended well enough. That’s got to be where we hang our hat — can we defend enough? We’ve got to make some plays, of course, but can we defend enough to give our offense a chance?”
The Wizards did. Beal had 26 points, five assists and five steals after starting at point guard, and Deni Avdija added 12 points and a season-high 13 rebounds.
Facing his old team, Kelly Oubre Jr. led Charlotte with 23 points.
Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ win:
Washington had a season-high 13 blocks and held the Hornets to 50 points in the paint — down from 70 the last time the teams met Nov. 7, a 108-100 Wizards road win.
Unseld said Hachimura tweaked his right ankle in the fourth quarter of Friday’s win and is day-to-day. Morris has been dealing with a lingering ankle issue, the coach added.
Delon Wright, who has been out with a hamstring strain since the end of October, is scheduled to be reevaluated Monday. Unseld said a scheduling issue pushed the reevaluation back a day.
Dotson on the way
For help at point guard with Morris and Wright injured, Washington called up Capital City Go-Go guard Devon Dotson and signed him to a two-way contract.
Dotson has averaged 12.1 points and 7.3 assists in seven games with the Wizards’ G League affiliate. On Nov. 15, he recorded the third triple-double in the team’s four-year history with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
“He’s a guy who’s played NBA minutes — I believe 22 games in the NBA,” Unseld said of Dotson, who didn’t play Sunday. “... [He] gives you another perimeter player, another backup point guard who can facilitate offense. He’s going to guard at a high rate.”
Washington waived forward Jordan Schakel, who appeared in six games after being signed to a two-way contract in March.
Porzingis was assessed a technical foul after a tussle in the first quarter. The Hornets’ Jalen McDaniels was guarding Porzingis when the center tugged on his arm to pull McDaniels toward him, perhaps trying to bait him into a foul, and McDaniels ended up knocking the big man into the Wizards’ bench.
Charlotte players ran over, and Unseld stepped to the side to separate the two before it could escalate. The officials called a personal foul on McDaniels.