John Wall is concerned that the stumbling Washington Wizards could make only a brief appearance in the playoffs – and now his backcourt mate is again injured.
Just reaching the postseason figures to be difficult for the Charlotte Hornets with Al Jefferson not at 100 percent.
Wall and the Wizards may be without Bradley Beal as they try to end a four-game slide Friday night against the visiting Hornets.
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Washington (40-32) had a five-game home win streak snapped with Wednesday’s 103-101 loss to Indiana that began a stretch of five straight at the Verizon Center. Wall was spectacular with 34 points and six assists, but the Wizards blew a 10-point lead in the final 6 1/2 minutes.
”If we keep lapsing and doing these types of things, we will have an early exit from the playoffs,” Wall said.
Beal made an early exit due to a sprained right ankle in the first quarter and did not return. The shooting guard has missed 18 games this season with wrist and toe injuries.
Embattled coach Randy Wittman didn’t want to use Beal’s latest injury as an excuse.
"Brad goes down; we gotta have some of our other guys step up,” Wittman said. "That’s it, sugarcoat it all you want, we gotta have other guys step up and play.”
Charlotte (30-40) has dropped seven of nine after losing 91-88 at home to Brooklyn on Wednesday. The Hornets rallied from an eight-point, fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game before falling to remain outside the Eastern Conference’s top eight teams.
"If we continue to play like we’re playing, not very disciplined, we won’t make it because these other teams coming up are all fighting for our spot too so they’re going to be hungry as well," guard Gerald Henderson said.
Henderson and Jefferson each scored 23 points. Jefferson added 10 rebounds for his team-high 21st double-double while playing through a sore knee.
"I’ve always been the type of guy that I feel like if I can go, if I can play through pain, I’m going to go because one thing I have learned is you can’t fool yourself," Jefferson said.
The Hornets have seen top scorer Kemba Walker miss 20 games this season due to injury, including all three meetings with the Wizards. Charlotte is 2-1 in those games, though Washington ended a five-game slide in the series with a 95-69 rout March 9.
Hornets starting forward Cody Zeller suffered a right shoulder sprain in that contest, and has missed seven of the eight games since. Marvin Williams has started in his place, averaging 9.0 points despite shooting 36.4 percent and 6.5 rebounds.
Wall, second in the league with 9.8 assists per game, and Walker will match up for the first time this season. Wall is averaging an NBA-best 95.0 touches with Walker third at 93.9.
The Hornets’ growing frustration has been evident. Walker picked up Charlotte’s fourth technical foul in its last five games in the loss Wednesday.
"We have to go to Washington and have everybody ready so we make less mistakes and we don’t worry about the officials and stuff, we worry about playing better," coach Steve Clifford said.