WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Wizards’ defense remains a soft spot. At least it’s rising to the occasion lately.
Bradley Beal had 30 points and 12 assists, Thomas Bryant added 21 points and 11 rebounds, and the Wizards overcame a 13-point deficit with a stingy fourth quarter in their 125-118 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.
Davis Bertans added 20 points off the bench, hitting six 3-pointers as the Wizards won two in a row for the first time this season. Jordan McCrae scored eight of his 13 in the fourth, including a baseline 3 that put Washington in front for good.
“It was important — it was beyond important,” Beal said about the victory. “For one, just protecting our house. But two, it gives us a little bit of flow, some juice moving forward.”
The Hornets were on pace to set a season high for points until the Wizards held Charlotte to 22 in the fourth quarter while forcing eight turnovers.
A game earlier, a team that holds the NBA’s second-worst defensive rating limited San Antonio to one field goal over a 5:43 stretch of the third period during a decisive run.
“Those are steps for us in the right direction,” Beal said. “We’ve still got to get those points down. We’re still giving up way too many points.”
Beal extended his career-best streak of scoring 30 or more to five games as the Wizards snapped a three-game skid against the Hornets.
Miles Bridges had a career-high 31 points for Charlotte, which has now lost at least three in a row for a third time this season. Devonte Graham, Terry Rozier and Malik Monk each added 19 for the Hornets.
Down 13 early in the fourth after Charlotte’s 11-2 run, Washington replied with 11 straight points and ultimately outscored the Hornets 29-9 down the stretch.
“I think their physicality picked up,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said. “We started turning the ball over too much. Just something we’ve got to continue to work on.”
Bertans hit his final 3 off Beal’s feed to close the margin to four, and Beal drove the lane, got fouled and sank a pair of free throws to make it 109-107 with 6:13 left.
Several possessions later, Bertans spotted McCrae for a baseline 3 to put Washington up 116-114. And later, McCrae’s contested runner just about sealed the win, making it 122-116 with 29 seconds remaining.
“Just playing off Brad,” McCrae said. “He’s doing a lot out there — handling, guarding, scoring for us. So for us, we’ve got to be ready to shoot when he throws it.”
Hornets: Went 8 for 15 (53%) from 3-point range in the first half. … Despite being 16 games into the season, this was Charlotte’s first against a Southeast Division rival.
Wizards: Coach Scott Brooks played a starting five of Beal, Bryant, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura and Isaiah Thomas for the sixth time, his most-used combination this season. … Moritz Wagner’s buzzer-beating 3 pulled Washington to 34-33 at the end of the first quarter. … Bertans tied his career high for 3-pointers.
Washington entered with the NBA’s second-highest scoring bench and built upon that with a 50-point showing. Bertans, McCrae and Ish Smith were among those second-unit players still on the floor down the stretch.
“I think that’s big for our team,” McCrae said. “Our team is deep. Anytime, the coach can go with anybody. That just is a testament for guys on the bench to be ready at all times.”
Bridges, a second-year pro, easily eclipsed his previous career high of 23 points set in October and it marked only the third time in 96 games he’s reached 20 points. The secret? Drawing contact early.
“I got to the free throw line,” said Bridges, who hit two foul shots 16 seconds into the game. “I was being aggressive getting to the rim. Then my shot started falling and just went from there.”
Hornets: Host the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
Wizards: Host the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.