Kyle Kuzma, Wizards beat Hornets, slip in four games

CHARLOTTE – Finally it was the Washington Wizards’ turn to inflict the pain on someone. After serving as highlight reel fodder for stars like Joel Embiid, Trae Young, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the guys who call this excessive “heat culture” courthouseWashington drew the line at LaMelo Ball and the Hornets.

Charlotte provided such a comfortable landing spot for the Wizards on Wednesday night that they bounced right back, bouncing back from their four-game losing streak to end their trip with a 132-116 victory at Spectrum Center. This time, thanks to a solid defensive performance and an energetic bench, Washington was the one who held a 22-point lead in the third quarter.

Kyle Kuzma (33 points, nine rebounds) led a free-flowing attack that had six double-digit scorers and 18 three-pointers, which was also the formula as the Wizards (2-5) recorded their other win of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies in the home opener.

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But as brilliant as the offense was, a solid defensive performance mattered more.

“The big key was also the transition [defense]” said coach Wes Unseld Jr. “We took care of that area, limited the fast-break points, forced them to play more of a half-court game and got it done. . . . Another evening full of excitement and I thought the boys really just exerted their energy and played with a purpose. I generally thought the communication was where it should be.”

Some key role players lived up to their job description perfectly – Danilo Gallinari showed his veteran value with four nifty three-pointers, guard Landry Shamet demonstrated his versatile offensive tools in just his second game back from a broken toe, and Delon Wright repeatedly worked his way to the free throw line on the way to 18 points. It was enough to defeat a Hornets team that was without Terry Rozier (groin strain) and didn’t bring enough firepower to make up for its defensive deficiencies.

“We just had a lot of energy on the ball. I made a few stops. . . . We had Corey [Kispert] and Landry out there shooting at it. . . . I think we just did a good job of keeping the ball free and trusting each other,” Wright said.

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Ball provided Charlotte’s only bright spot with 34 points. He gave the Wizards a scare as they slipped again in the third quarter, letting their lead shrink to nine.

But Shamet helped Washington get out of that situation by hitting a three-pointer to fuel a 10-point run.

Meanwhile, the Hornets (2-5) made just 8 of 25 attempts from the three-point line. They’ll get a chance for a repeat performance when they visit Capital One Arena on Friday for Game 2 of the group stage of the NBA’s new season tournament.

Here’s what else you should know about the Wizards’ win:

Kuzma was missing his would-be running mate as Jordan Poole all but disappeared after an otherwise successful offensive push. Poole was 0-for-7 from the floor in the first half and finished with 11 points on 3-for-12 shooting, his worst performance of the season.

The 24-year-old guard has already made a name for himself as a magician thanks to his penchant for wild shots. He is shooting 43.6 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from the three-point line.

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Shamet, who came in the trade that sent Bradley Beal to Phoenix, was a highlight among a backup team that scored 72 points. Shamet had 15 points, including three three-pointers, and was praised by Unseld for his quickness – in his shot and in his pace of play. Shamet even completed a strong first half alongside the starting eleven.

“His activity simply causes a lot of confusion and puts a lot of pressure on the defense. . . . He’s shown it his whole career, but when he plays at that pace, especially in the second unit, it opens up the field for guys,” Unseld said.

Forward Eugene Omoruyi was Washington’s only two-way player to play on Wednesday, earning three minutes in stoppage time. With the G League season starting Friday, Unseld will have to balance the schedules of Omoruyi, John Butler Jr. and Jared Butler, although the coach said he prioritizes meaningful minutes at the Capital City Go-Go over sitting on the Bench at the Wizards would be. Kyle Kuzma, Wizards beat Hornets, slip in four games

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