WASHINGTON (AP)Kristaps Porzingis scored 36 points and matched a career high with eight 3-pointers, and the Washington Wizards beat the Charlotte Hornets 118-104 on Wednesday night to stop a three-game skid.
Deni Avdija had 20 points and 13 rebounds and Bradley Beal had 17 points and 10 assists for the Wizards, who broke open a close game in the third quarter and handed the Hornets their fifth straight loss.
Porzingis scored 18 in the third, including a personal 8-2 run in which he made a 3, blocked a shot attempt by JT Thor and drained another 3. The 7-foot-3 Latvian concluded the burst with a 15-foot jumper to put the Wizards ahead 86-74, their largest lead to that point.
”A lot of it is in the mind, you know,” Porzingis said. ”I just knew that I was going to shoot the ball well. Even after the first half I was like, second half, it’s going down.”
P.J. Washington scored 20 points, Terry Rozier had 19 and LaMelo Ball added 16 for Charlotte, which entered the night only one game clear of the Eastern Conference cellar. The Hornets came in ranked 30th in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage and went 9 of 31 (29%).
”We just didn’t come out in the third quarter with the same offensive purpose and energy, and Porzingis obviously got going,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. ”We made two mistakes at the end of the first half, which led to two wide-open 3s for him and kind of got him going, which is what happens with a lot of primary scorers.”
The Wizards took three of four in the season series between the struggling franchises. All three previous games were decided by eight points or fewer, and this one appeared headed in that direction during a first half in which neither team led by double digits. Washington was ahead 32-31 after the first quarter and Avdija’s 3 sent the game into halftime tied at 61.
”I felt like we were playing around a little bit in the beginning and we weren’t as aggressive,” Avdija said. ”We came second half and we came aggressive, we played together and we weren’t playing around. … We sealed it pretty quickly.”
Beal, who missed the previous two games with left foot soreness, picked his spots to attack and struggled with his outside shot, but he looked healthy when he drove from the wing midway through the third quarter and elevated over the outstretched arm of Mark Williams for a dunk that put Washington up 72-67.
”I thought he looked OK,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. ”He was good. Defensively, I thought he was excellent. He made huge plays that kind of stemmed the tide in our favor.”
The Wizards expanded their advantage in the fourth quarter with Porzingis on the bench. He re-entered midway through the period and put the game away when he made his seventh 3 from the top of the key for a 105-82 lead.
Hornets: This is their fourth skid of five games or more this season. … Clifford identified Porzingis’ range as a problem for his team before the game, noting the matchup problems he presents when the Wizards play him at forward with Daniel Gafford at center. ”We can beat any team on any given night but we don’t have room for error,” Clifford said afterward.
Wizards: Two starters were out: F Kyle Kuzma missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle and PG Monte Morris sat with back tightness. … Delon Wright started in Morris’ spot and had 10 assists. … Gafford limped off the court with 10:05 left in the second quarter. He returned to the Wizards’ bench late in the period and re-entered the game early in the third. He finished with 13 points. … Porzingis had nine rebounds.
Hornets: At Boston on Friday night.
Wizards: Host Indiana on Saturday night.
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