Kuzma, Wizards hand Hornets fifth straight loss, 108-100
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kyle Kuzma scored 20 points and the Washington Wizards handed the slumping Charlotte Hornets their fifth straight loss, 108-100 on Monday night.
“I liked his energy,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “He’s had some nagging bumps but he pushed through. He played with pace and he was aggressive. I think he helped set the tone.”
Kuzma, who has been battling a shoulder injury, called this a “must win” for the Wizards, who entered the night having lost five of their last six games.
“We have have played some tough opponents and let some slip away, and then we have played down to the level of some opponents,” Kuzma said. “That’s a recipe for disaster and that’s how you lose five out of six.”
Kristaps Porzingis had 19 points and eight rebounds and Jordan Goodwin scored 17 points on 7-of-7 shooting for the Wizards. Rui Hachimura provided a boost off the bench with 16 points.
Washington shot 52.5% from the field, while holding the Hornets to 41.6%.
It was a sloppy game for both teams, with Unseld sarcastically calling it a “game for the ages.”
But it was competitive, featuring 14 lead changes before Hachimura gave the Wizards the lead for good with an 18-foot step-back jumper and a three-point play off running layup in the waning seconds of the third quarter.
Washington came out strong in the final frame, pushing its lead to double digits behind Kuzma, who started to score with drives and short jumpers. Kuzma finished with nine points in the fourth quarter on 4-of-6 shooting.
Monte Morris sent fans streaming to the exits with 1:19 left when he scored on a drive to the basket to beat the shot clock to push the lead to 11.
P.J. Washington had 25 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 20 for the Hornets, who’ve struggled with injuries all season and have not won since upsetting the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
All-Star LaMelo Ball (ankle) still hasn’t played this season for Charlotte, missing all 11 games with a sprained ankle. Cody Martin has been out 10 games with a quad injury and Gordon Hayward is down with a shoulder injury.
“It’s important to get them back but losing five games in no excuse,” Washington said. “We haven’t played one game with everybody (healthy). … Once they get back, everything will change.”
Coach Steve Clifford wasn’t happy with the Hornets’ second-half defense.
“That was the biggest problem,” Clifford said. “They scored 62 in the second half. Our transition defense and our awareness with the cuts, with cutting baskets. … and they scored on second chance points in that stretch in the third quarter.”
Wizards: Bradley Beal missed his second straight game while in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. … Bench outscored the Hornets 50-27. … Daniel Gafford strained his neck in the win.
Hornets: Didn’t make their first 3-pointer until less than 2 minutes remained in the first half and finished 5 of 32 from beyond the arc.
Wizards: Host Dallas on Thursday night.
Hornets: Host Portland on Wednesday night.
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