WASHINGTON (AP) After Kemba Walker’s potentially tying 3-point try went around the rim and out at the buzzer of the Charlotte Hornets’ third consecutive loss, the star guard and coach Steve Clifford agreed on this: The team needs to be more physical.
”Sooner or later, we’ve got to respond. We have to respond as a group or it’s not going to get better,” Clifford said. ”I’m sick of watching it, frankly.”
John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 19 of their 45 points in the third quarter, and the Wizards outrebounded the Hornets while scoring twice as many points in the paint during Washington’s 109-106 victory over the Southeast Division leaders Wednesday night.
”It’s the lack of physicality overall. I just told them that. I love our guys, but listen: We got knocked around … again tonight,” Clifford said. ”If guys aren’t willing to be more physical, we’re going to be an up-and-down team. We’ll struggle to make the playoffs. You have to change – no matter how old you are, how many years you’ve been in the league.”
Told of his coach’s assessment, Walker said: ”He sees it all. He’s watching the whole game. So he’s right.”
Charlotte is 0-3 to start a five-game road trip after losses at Cleveland on Saturday, then at Indiana on Monday.
Against Washington, the Hornets led by as many as 10 early in the third quarter, then trailed by as many as 12, but made things interesting at the end.
The Hornets pulled within two points after Marco Belinelli stole the ball from Wall, leading to Cody Zeller’s layup with 10.6 seconds remaining. Wall made one of two free throws a second later for a three-point lead, before Nicolas Batum and Walker both missed 3s that would have tied it.
After Batum’s miss, Walker got the rebound and moved out beyond the arc to launch his shot, which came oh-so-close to going in at the buzzer.
Beal said afterward he was ”a little nervous, I’m not going to lie, because he had a solid look.”
Hornets: Batum scored 20 points on his 28th birthday. He had game highs of 14 points and seven assists in the first half, helping Charlotte lead 54-49. … G Ramon Sessions, who played the last two seasons for Washington, scored four points.
Wizards: Wall drew a technical – his sixth of the season – for jawing with Belinelli after making a basket in the fourth quarter. … Markieff Morris was a late scratch because of a sore left foot. Kelly Oubre Jr. started in his place and scored 15 points. … Rookie F Danuel House missed his 10th game in a row with a broken right wrist.
WALL VS. WALKER
Wall, wearing bright orange neon shoes, outplayed Walker, finishing with more points (25-17) and assists (10-9), along with seven steals to become Washington’s franchise leader in that category, surpassing Greg Ballard, who played in the 1970s and 1980s. Wall became the team’s career leader in assists earlier this season.
”He wants to be the best at everything he does,” Beal said of his backcourt mate.
Washington eclipsed its season high for points in a quarter during the third, outscoring Charlotte 38-23 in that period, including a 23-5 run.
Beal, 0 for 6 in the first half, scored 11 points in the third. He finished with 20 points, a career-high nine assists and one turnover.
”Oh, that’s a good ratio,” he said with a big smile.
Hornets: At the Boston Celtics on Saturday night.
Wizards: Host the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.