Graham, Hornets survive big night from Wizards’ Bertans
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Miles Bridges said he spent most of his rookie season thinking about highlight-reel plays.
But the ultra-athletic 6-foot-6, 225-pound Charlotte Hornets forward, who was featured in the NBA All-Star Game dunk contest last season, said his mentality has changed in year two.
“This year it’s about doing anything to get the win,” Bridges said. “(I’m) focusing my defensive assignment, trying to be aggressive and making plays in the clutch.”
Devonte Graham scored 29 points, Bridges hit a huge 3-pointer with 7.7 seconds left and the Hornets beat the Washington Wizards 114-107 on Tuesday night in a game that featured 20 lead changes. Terry Rozier scored 17 points, Bridges had 16, P.J. Washington added 15 and Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo both had double-doubles as Charlotte salvaged a 2-3 record on a five-game homestand.
Davis Bertans scored a career-high 32 points and made eight 3-pointers for Washington. Rui Hachimura added 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Wizards, who have lost six of seven.
“The guy is a bucket-getter,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of Bertans. “Every shot is a great shot because it’s always squared up. He has a great release. It’s such a high release and he’s 6-10.”
While Bridges’ 3 stood out, Hornets coach James Borrego said he likes that the former Michigan State standout is attacking the basket more often.
“For our offense to be successful, we have to get the rim,” Borrego said. “We have to put pressure on the rim. If we just play on the perimeter, that won’t work. And Miles is one of those guys who can put pressure on the rim, whether it’s a post-up or rim attack or drive or offensive rebound. When he does that, he creates offense for us.”
Graham said when Bridges drives, it opens things up for other players.
“I keep telling to him be aggressive,” Graham said. “Bradley Beal was talking to him a little bit, so it kind of turned him up a little bit. I love it when he plays like that. He has the body to play like that and he needs to do it every time.”
The Hornets led by one when Graham drove the left side of the lane, scored on a left-handed scoop layup and drew the foul for a three-point play with 1:34 left. Rozier added one of two free throws before Bertans made a 3 from the wing to cut Charlotte’s lead to 109-107 with 31.4 seconds left.
With the Wizards pressing up on the ball, Graham passed to Washington, who found Bridges alone in the right corner for a 3 that the lefty swished to make it a two-possession game and essentially seal Washington’s fate.
“I thought DB (Bertans) was huge,” Washington’s Ish Smith said. “He got us back in the game, but we just came up short.”
Wizards: Beal picked up a technical foul in the final seconds of the first half for arguing that he got fouled on a coast-to-coast dunk. Beal had a rough night all around. He had 16 points but was 0 for 7 from 3-point range.
Hornets: Marvin Williams sat out his second straight game with knee soreness. ... The Hornets held the Wizards to 48 points in the first half, their fewest allowed in the opening half this season.
With his dramatic improvement in his second season, Graham is now starting to see different looks on defense. Teams are blitzing him, playing him full court and face-guarding him.
But Graham keeps on producing.
“He’s just reading the defense right now,” Borrego said. “If he can get downhill, he gets downhill, when they bring the big up he knows he’s got to pocket pass, so this is just him learning on the fly right now. Teams are throwing different coverages at him. We’ll see a different coverage (Wednesday) night.”
As if the Wizards don’t have enough injuries, starting guard Isaac Bonga left the game in the second quarter after getting off-balance while driving to the basket and hitting the back of his head on the floor.
The Wizards were already without John Wall, Thomas Bryant, Jordan McRae, Isaiah Thomas and CJ Miles.
Wizards: Visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.
Hornets: Begin a three-game trip Wednesday night at Brooklyn. ___