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Kuzma, strong bench help Wizards snap four-game losing streak with rout of Hornets

Kyle Kuzma Washington Wizards Kyle Kuzma - The Canadian Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kyle Kuzma scored 33 points and the Washington Wizards made 18 3-pointers to beat the Charlotte Hornets 132-116 on Wednesday night and snap a four-game losing streak.

Danilo Gallinari and Delon Wright each added 18 points and Landry Shamet had 15 as Washington’s reserves outscored Charlotte’s 72-23.

“The bench was unbelievable,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “They have shown spurts for us in this young season. It's comforting to know that you have guys who can come in and impact the game offensively and defensively and stem the tide and hold off runs.”

Kuzma, who entered the game averaging a team-high 23.7 points, has ade four 3s in each of his last three games and has taken on the role of team leader even with the addition of free agent Jordan Poole.

He is shooting 45% from beyond the arc in November.

“I have to give some credit to the bench, they played phenomenal tonight,” Kuzma said. "... Those guys were huge for us and they propelled us to a win.”

LaMelo Ball, coming off a 30-point triple-double in a loss to Dallas, had a season-high 34 points for the Hornets. Gordon Hayward added 18 points for Charlotte. Brandon Miller, the No. 2 overall pick this year, had 13 points in his first home start.

Both teams are 2-5.

The Hornets led 29-24 after the first quarter, but things quickly fell apart. The Wizards opened the second quarter with a decisive 34-9 run and took a 65-46 lead at halftime behind 20 points from Kuzma.

“That second quarter defense was big for us,” Unseld said.

The Wizards entered the game having surrendered 130.7 points per game during their four-game skid, including 146 to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.

So, this was a welcome improvement.

The Hornets would rally to cut the lead to eight in the third quarter behind Hayward, who took over with aggressive drives and jumpers. But Charlotte couldn't sustain the momentum, and the Wizards quickly pushed the lead back to 22 behind 3s from Gallinari and Corey Kispert and a driving two-handed dunk by Shamet over Ball.

The Hornets remain short-handed with Terry Rozier and Cody Martin out with injuries and Miles Bridges still serving a 10-game suspension, so they are trying to weather the storm until the get some bench help.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford said the biggest problem for his team has been defense, particularly when opponents go five out.

“It’s been a problem for us," Clifford said. “We have different things we’ve been doing and at times it’s worked, but tonight obviously it didn’t.”

Despite the slow start, Clifford is excited that Ball seems to rounding into form after a slow start.

“You can tell he's rhythm and his pick and roll game is really improving,” Clifford said. “And he's playing good defense. He is working hard on the defensive end.”


The teams will meet again Friday night in Washington in an NBA In-Season Tournament game.