Charlotte Hornets

Hornets fall to the Wizards 109-106 for third straight loss

The Charlotte Hornets lost their third straight game, falling 109-106 to the Washington Wizards. Nicolas Batum lead the Hornets with 20 points, eight assists, and five rebounds, while Kemba Walker finished with 17 points, 9 assists, and six rebounds. For Washington, John Wall led with 25 points and 10 assists, while Bradley Beal had 20 points and 9 assists.

It was fairly even in the first quarter, with the Hornets leading for much of it. Up 25-18 with roughly two minutes remaining, the Wizards responded to cut the lead to one. A 3-pointer by Ramon Sessions put Charlotte up by four, and they’d end the first up 30-26. Batum, who turned 28 today, was the early offensive leader, scoring 9 points in the 1st.

Marco Belinelli opened the second quarter by knocking down a deep 3-pointer, but Washington rallied to tie the game at 33-33. Charlotte retook the lead, but the game remained close, and with multiple ties.

As the half closed, Batum scored five straight to break the tie and give Charlotte a 54-49 lead at halftime.

After committing two offensive fouls in the opening three possessions, the Hornets got hot. Walker and Batum knocked down a pair of 3’s, then Zeller scored off a screen and roll to give Charlotte a 10 point lead. This is where Charlotte should have taken control, but Washington rallied and took the lead with 5:40 remaining in the 3rd.

It then got worse for Charlotte, as Washington extended their lead to 9 late in the third. Seven turnovers in the quarter for Charlotte was a major factor, but the defense wasn’t particularly good either.

Down 10 to start the fourth, the Hornets continued to struggle on either end until Marco Belinelli emerged to give Charlotte a chance, knocking a pair of 3-pointers and tough shots to put the Hornets within reach. As the game closed, it came down to Charlotte getting enough defensive stops. Not enough came, and it looked about out of reach with two minutes to go.

Then, the Hornets got a bit of luck. Down six with less than a minute remaining, the Hornets cut the lead to four, then stole the ensuing inbounds pass, leading to a Cody Zeller lay-in to cut the lead to 108-106 with 10.6 seconds remaining. Wall missed one of two free throws on the next possession, giving the Hornets a chance to tie. Batum’s 3-point attempt off the inbounds pass fell short, but after a scramble for the rebound, the ball came to Walker. After stepping back to the 3-point line, Walker launched a high-arcing shot that nearly went in, but didn’t fall. And if you’re wondering just how close, @j5hel came through with the well-timed screen grab:

And with that, the Hornets lost their third straight game. Long road trips haven’t been kind to Charlotte in the past, and that has been true so far in this current one. Tonight, turnovers cost them, with the Wizards scoring 23 points off of Charlotte’s 18 turnovers.

One positive, however — the Hornets made 14 3-pointers, and shot 42.4 percent from beyond the arc. Three of those came from Frank Kaminsky, who had his best game in a while, finishing with 10 points off the bench. Given their recent struggles from behind the arc, this was at least a bit encouraging.

Not encouraging, however, was the 38 points given up in the third quarter. This makes two straight games the Hornets have struggled to defend in the third after giving up 31 against Detroit on Monday. Given that they ranked near the top in points allowed in the third quarter, this is uncharacteristic, but becoming increasingly worrisome.

From here, salvaging the road trip means winning back-to-back games in Boston and Atlanta. Taking at least one of those would be nice, but to do so, Charlotte will have to get back to the basic principles of defending well and limiting turnovers.

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