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Charlotte Hornets hold off Washington Wizards with late free throws

Charlotte Hornets guard Gerald Henderson made two free throws with 14 seconds left for a five-point lead, securing a 92-88 victory against the Washington Wizards on Monday.

The victory was the Hornets’ 11th in their past 14 games, improving them to 21-28. The Wizards are 31-18.

Center Al Jefferson finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 13 and 13.

Wizards guard John Wall had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Washington small forward Paul Pierce hit a 3-pointer after Henderson’s free throws to close to two. The Wizards then fouled point guard Brian Roberts, who also made both free throws.

Leading by three in the final minute, the Hornets committed a costly shot-clock violation with 21 seconds left. Wall got a lane to the rim, but power forward Cody Zeller changed his shot just enough that it fell off the rim. The Hornets gained possession with 15 seconds left.

Wall immediately fouled Henderson, sending him to the line for two free throws with 14.8 seconds remaining.

A jump shot in the lane by Jefferson gave the Hornets a six-point lead with three minutes left after the Wizards had cut the deficit to two twice. Henderson fed Kidd-Gilchrist for a baseline layup to make it an eight-point lead with 1 minute, 44 seconds remaining.

Charlotte opened a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter on Jefferson’s baseline jump hook over counterpart Marcin Gortat.

The Hornets led by as many as 12 points during the third quarter, but sloppiness (three turnovers within a two-minute span) shrunk that lead to 70-66 entering the fourth quarter.

Gary Neal hit a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to break an 8-0 run by Washington. Neal hit two 3-pointers in a short stretch to keep the Hornets ahead without Jefferson in the game.

With Jefferson sitting, the Hornets became very much a settle-for-jump-shots team.

A turnover by Kidd-Gilchrist led directly to a breakaway dunk by Wizards guard Bradley Beal, closing Washington’s deficit to two with 61/2 minutes left.

The Hornets shot 55 percent from the field during the first half but led by only two at halftime, 53-51. The score would have been tied had Gortat’s putback beaten the buzzer.

The Charlotte backcourt of Henderson and Roberts combined for 19 first-half points with 8-of-13 shooting. Also reserve guard Lance Stephenson, who has struggled with his jump shot of late, made four of seven first-half attempts for eight points.

Really the only Hornet who struggled from the field was Jefferson. Gortat did a good job of keeping him away from his optimum spots in the low post. Jefferson often settled for mid-range jump shots, starting out 1-of-5 from the field before going to the locker room 3-of-8.

Despite giving up such a high shooting percentage to the Hornets in the first half, the Wizards kept the game close at the foul line. Washington took 14 free-throw attempts to Charlotte’s five.

The Hornets will play the Wizards again Thursday in Charlotte.

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