Hornets squander 4th quarter lead, lose again

Kyle Kuzma scores 28 points to lead the Wizards

Wizards guard Bradley Beal moves past Hornets guard Kelly Oubre Jr. during Washington's win Sunday. (Susan Walsh / AP Photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Kyle Kuzma had 28 points, 10 rebounds and five assists and the Washington Wizards, after watching star Bradley Beal limp off in the last minute, beat the Charlotte Hornets 106-102 on Sunday night.

Beal scored 26 points, but wasn’t on the floor for the final 9.8 seconds despite Washington being up just two points. He walked with a slight limp to the locker room before the game ended after taking a knee to the thigh.

Beal received extensive treatment after the game and did not meet with reporters, but his limp remained in the locker room. Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said Beal will be re-evaluated Monday.

All five Washington starters scored in double figures. The Wizards have won six of seven.

“We looked a little sluggish,” Unseld said. “Obviously made enough plays, especially in the second half. Were able to hold on.”

Kelly Oubre Jr. led Charlotte with 23 points. Gordon Hayward added 18 points. The Hornets have lost 11 of 12.

“We have to have physicality every night,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.

An 18-point third-quarter slog by Washington allowed Charlotte to take a two-point lead into the fourth quarter. The Wizards’ offense declined from potent, to middling, to stifled in the first three quarters — they scored 35, 24, and 18 points from the first to the third periods.

But an eight-point burst from Kuzma helped the Wizards to a quick 88-81 lead to open the fourth. Washington’s lead fluctuated throughout the quarter before it hung on after Terry Rozier cut the lead to two with 9.8 seconds to play.

Kristaps Porzingis and Corey Kispert each made two free throws to seal the game.

“We defended well enough,” Unseld said.

The Wizards’ three consecutive 3-pointers, two by Beal and one by Kispert, vaulted them in front 59-55 at the half. Beal led all scorers with 16 points — he was efficient scoring (7-for-10 shooting) and sloppy with the ball (five turnovers) in the first half.

Oubre’s dunk off a baseline drive put Charlotte in front 49-46 and led to a Washington timeout. The Wizards obtained Oubre with a 2016 draft-day trade and he spent three-plus seasons in Washington before being dealt to the Phoenix Suns.

Oubre twice yelled toward the Wizards’ bench after scoring in the first quarter Sunday.

“It’s not about allowing the other team punching you and you responding,” Oubre said. “Just going out their and competing is not enough. We have to go out there with that chip on our shoulder, we are the underdogs every night.”

LaMelo Ball (ankle) was out Sunday, missing his 15th of 18 games this season. Dennis Smith Jr. was available for the first time since Nov. 10 and entered the game at 6:18 of the first quarter.

The Hornets host Philadelphia on Wednesday night.