The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 114-104 on Tuesday night. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
Some nights, the Wizards can make do without their injured players. Tuesday was not one of those nights.
It turns out missing most of their best offensive players can make it pretty difficult for the Wizards to score. They were without Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant, and without them, it was tough keeping up with the Charlotte Hornets, despite the fact they are an average offensive team.
The Wizards managed only 104 points on 41% shooting. They went 10-for-37 (27.0%) from three. Washington scored only 48 points in the second half.
Rui Hachimura led the way for the Wizards with 30 points, tying a career-high for scoring. Russell Westbrook had another triple-double (22 points, 15 rebounds, 15 assists) and Robin Lopez was solid with 16 points and 11 boards.
But collectively, the Wizards didn't have enough. They fell to 17-29 on the year, having lost nine of 12 since the All-Star break.
Rui keeps ascending
This has mostly been a rough season for the Wizards, who have underperformed amid a series of obstacles, some entirely unprecedented. But one major bright spot of this year has been the continued improvement of Hachimura, who seems to get better by the week, if not by the game.
Hachimura is rounding out his offensive skillset at a rapid pace, now confidently knocking down threes and terrorizing the paint. He is strong and fast for his position and is now using those attributes to become a matchup nightmare for his opponents.
Hachimura knows where his spots are in the midrange, to where he can score even when closely guarded. And lately, he's been able to consistently step out to knock down threes and bully defenders to the rim with brute force. Hachimura had 16 points by halftime and another 14 in the second half.
The Wizards could have built a substantial lead early in this game if it weren't for the Hornets catching fire from 3-point range. They went 10-for-20 from three in the first half after making seven of their first 13.
Charlotte would end up going 14-for-34 (41.2%) from three. Gordon Hayward (26 points) and Devonte' Graham (17 points) each made three from long range, while Terry Rozier (27 points) knocked down five threes. The Hornets are top-10 in the NBA in all 3-point shooting categories, while the Wizards give up the fifth-highest 3-point percentage of any team. So, the result was probably to be expected.
Beal was out for the second straight game with a right hip contusion. This time he got a little bit closer to playing as a game-time decision when on Monday he was ruled out hours earlier. Jerome Robinson started in his place.
Raul Neto also missed this game due to his rib contusion. Neto has been playing through the rib issue for weeks now, usually showing no signs of discomfort from what has to be an uncomfortable injury.
And finally, the Wizards also played without big man Daniel Gafford, who left Monday's win with a right ankle sprain. Head coach Scott Brooks didn't have much information about his diagnosis pregame, but it does not sound very serious. If that proves true, they may have dodged a bullet on that one, given how bad it looked at first.
Winston got some run
With Neto out and Ish Smith (quad) still rehabbing, the Wizards turned to Cassius Winston for some minutes at the backup point guard spot. A second-round pick in 2020, Winston has mostly been relegated to garbage time spots so far this season.
Winston only played 11 minutes, as the Wizards relied heavily on Westbrook (37 minutes). He scored three points and also had two steals. But the best sign from Winston was just how assertive he was with the ball. You can tell when watching Winston he's still adjusting to the size and speed of NBA defenses. He hasn't been the decisive floor general we saw in college, but that will come the more he gains experience and the game slows down for him.