Thomas Bryant keys Wizards’ comeback surge to beat Hornets

Thomas Bryant shoots during warmups on Nov. 17. (Reinhold Matay | USA Today Sports)

By BILLY HEYEN

The final action on Friday night’s stat sheet was Thomas Bryant grabbing a defensive rebound. He held the ball up in his right hand, and as the buzzer sounded, he let it fall straight down, the metaphorical mic drop. 

It was an ending that didn’t seem likely for the majority of Washington’s game against Charlotte, but the Wizards completed a double-digit comeback to win, 125-118. The Rochester-native Bryant finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 9-of-12 from the floor with six dunks. Washington has won two-straight games.

Bryant opened his evening with a fadeaway from the left block after dribbling a couple times in the post. It caught the attention of Hornets’ color commentator and former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry.

“He can shoot the basketball,” Curry said of Bryant.

From there, the Wizards went to work with the ball in Bradley Beal’s hand, the central feature of most of their offensive sets. First, a Rui Hachimura slip screen and Beal drive led to a dump-off pass to Bryant for a two-handed slam with a scream.

Then, Bryant ran the floor to beat Charlotte to the bucket and Beal picked him out for another dunk. This time, Bryant just swung on the rim a bit before hopping down.

There was one more bucket for Bryant to score in a back-and-forth first half. Washington’s offense was led by Beal and stretch-4 Davis Bertans, who made five first-half 3-pointers.

Bryant supplemented that on a pick-and-roll with Beal, where the guard’s pass found Bryant cutting in the lane. Through contact from NBA veteran Marvin Williams, Bryant finished off glass with the foul. 

After the strong finish, Bryant flexed his arms down toward his waist, then raised the flex up toward the roof.

Bryant also blocked fellow former Indiana center Cody Zeller on a drive before the halftime break. Washington went to the break down, 68-62.

Out of the half, Bryant continued to beat players down the floor and slammed again with two hands over Miles Bridges. Bryant added a quick putback and another flex the next time down the floor. Two minutes later, Bryant flashed to the foul line against the Hornets’ brief usage of the 2-3 zone and swished a right elbow jumper. 

“He can make those all night,” Curry said on the broadcast.

The Wizards allowed Charlotte to expand its lead from four points to 13 as Bryant sat out for almost six minutes across the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth quarter. As Washington started to cut back into the lead with Bryant back in the game, he rolled to the basket and was fouled by Zeller. He made the second foul shot.

Bryant ran the floor yet again for a transition dunk to bring the Wizards within 114-111 with 4:10 to play. On the next possession, Bryant caught a feed from Beal on a pick-and-roll for another dunk, his sixth slam of the game to bring Washington within one. Jordan McRae nailed a corner 3 to give the Wizards a 116-114 lead with about three minutes to play and extend Washington’s scoring run to 20-5.

On a trip to the foul line the next time down the floor, Bryant nailed two foul shots and put the Wizards up four. Washington wouldn’t relinquish the lead from that point on.

Bryant finished with his season-best shooting percentage by making 75 percent of his looks. He also led the Wizards in plus-minus at +21. So it was only fitting that the Hornets’ final miss landed in Bryant’s arms.

The last few games, Bryant spent more time on the bench than usual as backup center Moritz Wagner stood out for the Wizards. Friday, Washington wouldn’t have come back without Bryant.

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