Wizards offense falls flat in Bradley Beal’s return vs. Hornets

Wizards offense falls flat in Beal's return vs. Hornets originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 97-87 on Wednesday night on the road. Here are five observations from what went down…

Letdown on the road

Wednesday night’s game against the Hornets pitted the Wizards up against a good team with a good offense on the road. It is not surprising they had some trouble, it just came in an unexpected way.

The Hornets are dreadful defensively, yet the Wizards had major problems scoring the ball. They were held to a season-low 87 points, shooting 36.7% from the field and 19.0% from three. 

The defense was there for the Wizards, they just couldn’t get their shots to fall, even with Bradley Beal back. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Washington. They are 10-4 on the year.

There were some oddities to this game. The Hornets didn’t attempt a free throw until there was 6:48 left in the third quarter. All three of the Wizards’ point guards – Spencer Dinwiddie, Raul Neto and Aaron Holiday – combined to go scoreless until Neto hit a layup with 4:57 left in the fourth. 

They weren’t the only ones to struggle. Kyle Kuzma had five points and shot 1-for-8 from three and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was held to three points and went 0-for-5 from three.

This was the Wizards’ eighth straight loss in Charlotte.

Beal was back

The Wizards welcomed back Beal following his two-game absence due to the death of his grandmother. Beal returned to the starting lineup and played 35 minutes. He had 24 points, seven assists and two steals. He also shot pretty well with a season-high five threes on 5-for-11 from long range.

While the Wizards have Beal back in the fold, they will not have Dinwiddie for Thursday night’s game at the Miami Heat. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. revealed that piece of news before the game, as Dinwiddie continues to be limited in back-to-backs due to the fact he is only 10 months removed from ACL surgery.

Gafford went off

The Hornets are not a very good defensive team, as they are ranked 25th in efficiency and dead-last in points allowed per game (115.1). Their biggest problem area is in the paint where they give up the fourth-most points per game (48.5). So, it was no surprise to see the Wizards attack the middle with their bigs early and often. Though Montrezl Harrell (15 points, nine rebounds) had himself another good game, it was Daniel Gafford who really took advantage.

Gafford had 10 points in his first six minutes and 16 by halftime, matching a career-high for a single half. He finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, two steals and a block. He made his first nine shots from the field. That was a marked change from his recent play on offense, as he had 14 points combined in his last three games entering Wednesday. He was still making plays on defense, but this was a breakout performance he needed.

Threes remain a struggle

The Wizards have been so good thus far this season that it is hard to identify their weaknesses. They have really only struggled mightily in one area and that is 3-point shooting. They shot just 8-for-42 against Charlotte, including 3-for-19 in the first half. On the season, they rank in the bottom-third of all 3-point shooting categories.

The good news is that they are missing their two best 3-point shooters. Both Davis Bertans (ankle) and Thomas Bryant (ACL recovery) have been out, so theoretically, the Wizards could improve in that area just by getting healthier. In the meantime, they could try making some open threes. The Wizards have the second-worst percentage on wide-open threes (31.6%), per Second Spectrum.

Oubre revenge game

The third quarter was an abject disaster for the Wizards and a familiar face was a big reason why. The Hornets outscored the Wizards 30-14 in the frame and Kelly Oubre Jr. had nine points all by himself. He made two threes, had a fastbreak dunk and even blocked Deni Avdija at the buzzer on a 3-point attempt.

Oubre Jr. had 14 points in the game to go along with three rebounds and two blocks. He’s having a pretty good season, averaging 13.9 points per game entering Wednesday while shooting a career-best 38.8% from three. Now that he’s back in the East for the first time since he played for the Wizards, they will be seeing plenty more of him this season.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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