Under normal circumstances, McRae might have been able to nurse his finger while sitting on the bench in the game’s late moments. But McRae remained on the floor — shooting, defending and rallying — during the Wizards’ 125-118 comeback victory. With Bradley Beal alternating between being the team’s benevolent all-star (12 assists) and one of the NBA’s best scorers (30 points), the Wizards (5-8) got their second straight win behind the work of role players such as McRae.
“I thought Jordan came in and gave us great minutes,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “We were down — I don’t know, what, 13? — and things weren’t going our way. I just told the guys: ‘We have a lot of game left. . . . We just got to make sure to give us a chance to win.’ ”
Those “guys” who held the Hornets in check with 22 points in the final quarter were mostly second-unit players.
As Washington worked back from a 13-point deficit, Brooks rolled with Beal and starting center Thomas Bryant along with three reserves. With 3:02 remaining, McRae, camping in the corner, gave the Wizards a 116-114 advantage with a three-pointer, and his team built upon and maintained its cushion until the final buzzer.
McRae swished the jumper despite the gnarly injury on his ring finger, which helps guide the shot. Earlier in the game, McRae dropped a vicious dunk with shot-blocking center Bismack Biyombo in the vicinity.
“It took my pin out of my hand a little bit, man,” McRae reported. “So I’ve got to get that checked out.”
Along with McRae’s 13 points — he scored seven points and collected two steals in the fourth — backup point guard Ish Smith added 10. Although both were on the floor when Charlotte went up 107-94, Brooks thought about subbing in his starters only for a fleeting moment.
“I mean, it was tempting [to return to the starters], but they got the spark that came back,” Brooks said of his bench. “I think we scored a three and a quick two and cut [the lead] to eight. Then that team just kept getting stops [and] fighting through.”
Backup forward Davis Bertans scored 20 points in 28 minutes and tied his personal best with six three-pointers. His last one came off an assist from Beal during the fourth-quarter rally.
Bertans didn’t practice Thursday, instead walking around the team facility in flip-flops. The reason: He has been logging a lot of minutes lately, Bertans said. In the two previous games this week, Bertans labored for nearly 31 minutes per night. Therefore, he required a little rest for his legs.
When asked whether his shooting arm needed similar care and concern, Bertans smiled at the folly of the question.
“Arms are good,” he said. “Arms are always good.”
Rested and ready for target practice, Bertans put on a show for admirers of the catch-and-shoot three-pointer. Whenever the ball swung his way in the first half, Bertans, curiously left open, released deep and accurate jump shots. He made 5 of 7 tries from behind the three-point line for all of his 15 points in the half. A pair of his shots directly led to Hornets Coach James Borrego calling a timeout — the best defensive tactic Charlotte had for the red-hot Bertans.
Still, the Wizards couldn’t survive off Bertans’s arms alone. They needed to sprinkle some defense in here and there, but Charlotte closed the half on a 12-3 run. Instead of capitalizing on Bertans’s three-point touch and building a lead, the Wizards trailed 68-62 at halftime.
“Tonight, I would say for 3 1/2 quarters [it] was terrible defense,” Bertans said. “And then I would say we played a little bit above good for the last six minutes . . . and that’s where we got the win.”
During that final stretch, Beal stabilized the unit with his passing and scoring. In fact, he never left the floor in the fourth quarter, playing a season-high 42 minutes. He made the most of his expanded role by scoring 30 or more points for the fifth straight game, the longest streak of his eight-year career, and had three assists in the closing minutes.
“He’s an all-star player,” Borrego said. “He’s a guy that can play multiple levels. He can play off the bounce. You can trap him, you can blitz him — but he’s going to find ways to free up not only himself but his teammates. He’s a heck of a player, and you got to give him credit. He played extremely well tonight.”
Beal deserved his praise, but after the game he delivered one final assist — by passing that admiration along to McRae.
“He was huge,” Beal said. “He won the game for us tonight. He came in and made some big plays, made a big three down the stretch in the corner and knocked down the two free throws at the end.”