The Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets aim to apply the brakes on their respective skids Wednesday when they meet in the nation’s capital.
Washington has dropped three in a row on the heels of a season-best six-game winning streak, while Charlotte has lost four consecutive contests.
After squandering a 20-point lead against Portland on Friday and a 23-point advantage versus Brooklyn the following night, the Wizards fell behind by 22 points late in the first half on Monday en route to a 114-91 setback against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Two losses when we’re up 20 — we’re not robots. We’re going to maybe be … our energy was a little bit lower,” Kristaps Porzingis said, per the Washington Post. “Felt like we could be on this super-high wave of eight- — plus, if the Detroit game happened — nine-game winning streak. Everybody would be talking about us. And we lost two games that were ours. Of course, I think it has an effect on our emotional state. But this is where we have to prove that we’re ready to be mentally strong as a team.”
It didn’t help that Washington was forced to play without injured starters Kyle Kuzma (left ankle sprain) and Bradley Beal (left foot soreness) on Monday and both players are questionable for Wednesday’s game. Porzingis shouldered the load by recording 18 points and seven rebounds and Will Barton added 15 and six, respectively.
Porzingis and Barton, however, combined to make just 2 of 10 shots from 3-point range. As a team, the Wizards sank just 6 of 28 from beyond the arc.
Kuzma scored 20 points in Washington’s 108-100 victory in Charlotte on Nov. 7 and 28 in a 106-102 victory over the Hornets on Nov. 20. He was limited to just 14 in a 117-116 setback in Charlotte on Dec. 2.
LaMelo Ball, who did not play in any of the three meetings with Washington, has averaged 25.5 points during the Hornets’ four-game losing streak. He finished with a season-high 33 points on 13-of-24 shooting from the floor — including 6-of-13 shooting from 3-point range — in Sunday’s 119-113 setback versus Orlando.
Being dominated on the boards and struggles at the free-throw line have become an all-too-common occurrence for coach Steve Clifford’s team.
Charlotte was outrebounded 51-37 in a 118-112 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Friday and 52-39 (including 18-8 on the offensive glass) on Sunday. The Hornets also made just 47.8 percent (11 of 23) from the charity stripe versus the Magic.
“To me, it’s the rebounding and the free-throw shooting,” Clifford said. “Two games in a row, right? We missed five free throws in the last 4 1/2 minutes the other night (in Detroit), and I think in the fourth quarter (on Sunday) we missed eight. That’s the game.”
“You can’t really control missed shots, free throws — that’s going to happen,” Terry Rozier said. “The rebounding, defense and all the other stuff like the effort plays, we just have to be better at. It’s something we’ve been preaching about all year and we’re just not doing it. It’s frustrating and for the people that watch us and support us, it’s frustrating.”
–Field Level Media