The worst team in the NBA at defending the three-point shot, the Wizards were intent on not letting the Charlotte Hornets have their way with their small-ball lineups. They sacrificed two-point shots via putbacks on offensive rebounds to take away the long ball.
"We usually hedge teams," Jared Dudley said of the pick-and-roll coverage. "We didn't hedge. We switched a lot more."
The Wizards were outrebounded 51-38 in Saturday's 109-101 victory, with 18 of those for the Hornets on the offensive end. That translated to 19 second-chance points.
Marcin Gortat had to run out to the arc and challenge shooters and that adjustment by coach Randy Wittman worked. Kemba Walker and Nic Batum each shot 1-for-7 from three. Marvin Williams was 1 of 5. Jeremy Lamb shot 1-for-4.
"Because we were switching so much, Gortat had to switch out sometimes. I had to switch out so then now John (Wall) and (Ramon) Sessions, those guys have to bang down low," Dudley said. "It's something they're not used to. It's the first time we've done something like that. On the rebounds you're going to give that up. Even with that they still make a lot of threes early on. We limited them second half. For now we'll take twos for threes and live with it."
The Wizards allowed an NBA worst 40%-plus from long range entering the weekend. The only other team in their vicinity is the New Orleans Pelicans.
"Our activity was better," Wittman said. "We're in good spots but we're surprised they throw the ball to the guy I'm standing next to and they make a three. Our alertness and activity was much better."
Batum missed a three-pointer as Gortat rushed to close him out, but the Hornets had two offensive rebounds on the possession that resulted in a putback for Cody Zeller to rim the deficit to 95-88. Even when Jeremy Lin lost the ball on a drive for what appeared to be a sure turnover, Batum stepped right into its path and deposited into the basket.
Gortat challenged Walker's drive to the basket to force a miss but Zeller cleaned up the mess with putback dunk for a 99-96 margin. Then Zeller finished at the rim over Dudley to cut the deficit to one before the Wizards would end the game on a 10-3 run.
"We don't want to give up as many rebounds as we did. They beat us on the boards last game but we did want to take away threes," said Wizards guard Garrett Temple, referring to a 101-87 loss in Charlotte last month when they were outrebounded 51-41. "We did a pretty good job defensively but we have to sure up our defensive rebounding. Even though we're small we got to find ways to get rebounds. We were able to knock down enough shots for it to not matter."
The Wizards came close to holding an opponent to less than 100 points for the first time in 10 games but the Hornets had 26 in the fourth. Still, they didn't convert any of their five three-point shots in the last 12 minutes.
"That's what teams are beating us on, three-pointers," rookie Kelly Oubre, who made his first start, said. "We honed in on that. We ran guys off the line. Tried to make sure we swtiched when we needed to switch and do things the right way."
To stop one area of bleeding, the Wizards had to concede another. The Hornets had seven offensive boards in the fourth alone.
"They did a great job of getting into the paint, finishing and getting offensive rebounds. That's our Achilles heel ... getting killed on the boards," Wall said. "They kicked our tail in the second half on the boards."