Instead, the Wizards played with energy and resilience, holding off Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets, 130-126.
Hours after learning that Wall will have surgery on his left heel, the Wizards used an eight-man rotation to beat the Hornets (17-18) despite a 47-point night from Walker.
The win was one of the Wizards’ most balanced offensive performances of the season. Seven players finished in double figures, with Trevor Ariza leading the way with 24 points and Thomas Bryant adding 21.
“Obviously, it was an emotional day, and we fought through a lot of things today,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought our guys competed and gave us a chance to win today with great effort and good shots. We couldn’t score [Friday night against the Bulls]; now we scored 130 points.”
After a back-and-forth second half, the Wizards made their push with less than five minutes remaining. Trailing by two, Washington got an and-one by Ariza, a three from Tomas Satoransky and a dunk by Bryant to give them a six-point lead that brought Capital One Arena to its feet.
But Walker, a one-man wrecking crew, wasn’t going to let Washington cruise to an easy victory. He scored eight consecutive points for the Hornets and had 16 in the final three-plus minutes to keep Charlotte alive. His acrobatic layup cut the lead to two with 11.1 seconds left, and his three-pointer cut it to one with 2.5 seconds remaining. But Ariza’s three-point play sealed Washington’s third win in its past 12 games.
With Wall, Markieff Morris, Otto Porter Jr. and Dwight Howard out, Brooks said before Saturday’s game that the Wizards would have to play with some “funky” lineups while they tried to get healthy. Against Charlotte, the team got an early boost from bench players Sam Dekker, Troy Brown Jr. and Chasson Randle.
“I want them to star in what they bring to the team,” Brooks said of his young contributors. “Thomas did that tonight. Troy did that tonight. Chasson did that tonight. And that’s what they have to continue to do.”
Brown made a surprising entrance midway through the first quarter. The first-round pick out of Oregon made just his 17th appearance of the season but didn’t disappoint, playing with energy and aggression. He scored two quick baskets and later knocked down a three-pointer. He quickly surpassed his career high of seven points with nine and garnered applause from the home crowd.
With Wall out, the most trusted player and an obvious candidate for a bigger role is Bradley Beal. He entered the game averaging 27.1 points in December and led the way during the long stretch Wall missed last season. Beal finished with 19 points, but Washington didn’t need its star guard to handle the load. That’s the way Beal said he wants it.
“Everybody has to step up. It’s next man up,” Beal said. “I can’t sit here and do it on my own, because there’s no way in hell I’d be able to do it on my own. It’s just a matter of trusting my teammates.”