The Wizards, who have won six of seven overall, improved to 10-7 on the season.
“We’re still trying to find ourselves as a team,” said Kyle Kuzma, who scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. “…but at any time you can take care of the houses and win at home, this is very important because it is very difficult to win on the road.”
Sunday’s game with the Hornets (4-14) was close but undisturbed by comparison Friday’s 1-point overtime win over the Miami Heat — even after Bradley Bell walked into the locker room 15.8 seconds to play after taking a knee to his quadriceps. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. did not receive any update on his star player after the game.
Washington was more in control throughout, perhaps because the problems that kept the game tight weren’t from shaky zone defense or unfamiliar players on the opposing team but from within the Wizards’ home.
Starting point guard Monty Morris and backup forward Rui Hachimura were sidelined with ankle soreness, and absences relegated guard Corey Kisbert to the starting lineup and left Washington’s bench denied Hachimura’s reliable scoring. The result was greater inactivity among an already flat second unit.
Center Taj Gibson was again called upon to shake up the pack’s energy as second-string man Daniel Gafford sat out the entire second inning.
“I think he was tough; I think the physical strength got him a little bit. I think Taj did a good job of being more aggressive. He presses the ball, he does some things like that naturally,” Unseld said. “…I think That Taj has a bit more experience with these scenarios helps him.”
“He really doesn’t make a lot of mistakes,” Kuzma said.
The margin of error was thin, and Washington put up enough plays in the second half to stay ahead. Eleven first-half turnovers shrank to six, and the Wizards held the Hornets to 33.3 percent.
Offensively, The Wizards did enough to make up for the biggest self-created problem of the night: an out-and-out game from Kristaps Porzingis. The Latvian ended up with 12 points but made only four out of 19 attempts from the field.
“He’ll have those nights. I hope they’re far apart, but he hit the ball at such an exceptional level, it’s like he was due one of those nights,” Unseld said. “…we defended well enough. This should be where we tip our hat – can we defend enough? We have to make some plays, of course, but can we defend enough to give our offense a chance? “
magicians did. Bell had 26 points, five assists and five steals after starting at base, and Denny Avdeja added 12 points and a season-high 13 rebounds.
Facing his old team, Kelly Ober Jr. led Charlotte with 23 points.
Here’s what else you should know about the Wizards win:
Washington had a season-high 13 blocks and held the Hornets to 50 points in the paint — down from 70 the last time the two teams met on November 7, Road win 108-100 Wizards.
Unseld said Hachimura tweaked his right ankle in the fourth quarter of Friday’s win and it repeats on a daily basis. The coach added that Morris was dealing with a chronic ankle problem.
Dillon Wright, who has had a hamstring strain since the end of October, is scheduled to be reassessed Monday. Unseld said a scheduling issue delayed the re-evaluation on the day.
To assist at point guard with Morris Wright injured, Washington called up Capital City Go-Go guard Devon Dotson and signed him to a two-way contract.
Dotson averaged 12.1 points and 7.3 assists in seven games with the Wizards’ G League affiliate. On November 15, he recorded a triple-double in the team’s four-year history with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
“He’s a guy who’s played NBA minutes — I think 22 NBA games,” Unseld said of Dotson, who didn’t play Sunday. “… [He] Gives you another perimeter player, another backup guard who can facilitate the attack. He will guard at a high rate.”
Washington waived forward Jordan Shackle, who appeared in six games, after signing a two-way contract in March.
Porzingis was assessed for a technical foul after a struggle in the first quarter. The Hornets’ Jalen McDaniels was guarding the Porcingies when the center grabbed his arm to pull McDaniels toward him, possibly trying to bait him into a foul, and McDaniels ended up hitting the big man in the Wizards’ bench.
Charlotte players ran, and Unseld climbed to the side to separate the two before it escalated. Officials called McDaniels a personal foul.