Wall, Wizards look to bounce back versus Hornets (Dec 14, 2016)

BY AP • December 14, 2016

WASHINGTON -- Just as John Wall and the Wizards were seemingly taking steps in the right direction, Washington's defense melted down against the Heat in Miami.

Now Wall and company must open a three-game homestand against a Charlotte Hornets squad that typically gets the job of guarding their opponents done right.

The Wizards (9-14) fell 112-101 Monday night in Miami despite 59 points combined from Wall and Bradley Beal. The Heat, who entered the game 28th in scoring, used the pick-and-roll prowess of guard Goran Dragic and big man Hassan Whiteside to befuddle Washington. Dragic scored a season-high 34 points as Miami shot 51 percent from the field and outscored Washington 31-19 in the fourth quarter.

"It was just a back-and-forth game going into the fourth quarter," Wall said. "We kept chipping away and making runs, but when we got those stops we needed we didn't convert on the other end. That kind of hurt us."

This struggle came after back-to-back stingy defensive efforts for the Wizards, who held the Milwaukee Bucks without a point for over four minutes late in the fourth quarter of a 110-105 home victory Saturday. Washington had won two straight and three of four before Monday's setback.

"I think we'll figure it out," Beal said of the defensive issues. "From here on out, it's a learning lesson. Never really dealt with the four-man or five, at the time, playing pick-and-roll and handling the ball, playing small the way they were. We just have to find a will to win. That's all it is at the end of the day. We just got to do whatever it takes to get the win."

Typically, the Hornets, sixth overall in field goal percentage defense (43.8), use their defense for success. Their 110-94 road loss at the Indiana Pacers on Monday was not one of those nights. The Pacers sank 17 of 36 from 3-point range and pulled away in the fourth quarter behind 22 points from All-Star Paul George.

"They started the fourth quarter on like an 8-2 or 10-2 run, and then Paul George just took over at the end, just like he did in their game Saturday night," Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. "Our coverage on George really wasn't bad. I mean, he is a terrific player and a tough cover."

It was also tough for the Hornets to make any shots. Charlotte shot 33 percent from the field in its second straight loss after three wins in a row.

"We just missed a lot of open shots," forward Nic Batum said, "Those are shots we are used to making. This is a good team on defense, but still, we missed some open shots we need to make. We actually had the lead in the third quarter, and we have to keep it."

Kemba Walker scored a season-low 12 points in the loss, well below his season average of 22.8. It's possible another rough night is on deck for the point guard. Walker averaged 18.3 points in four games against Washington last season, but shot only 39.4 percent from the field.

The Wizards and Hornets split four games last season.

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