Defense fuels Washington's 15-5 fourth quarter run in win over New Orleans
It took nearly three quarters, but the Washington Wizards found their groove defensively in the fourth quarter. Their small-ball lineup featuring Otto Porter, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris, and Austin Rivers went on a 15-5 run to get away from the visiting Pelicans. That lineup was able to switch as needed and they were extremely active with their hands, Rivers even came up with a couple of blocks. On the offensive end, this unit put stress on the Pelicans and timely cuts were made off of good drives. New Orleans had their hands full and struggled to contain them in the half court and especially in transition after stops. The Wizards are now 7-12 after last night's victory, they have a day off before they host the Houston Rockets.
Porter led the Wizards with 29 points on 12-of-15 shooting, going three-of-four from beyond the arc. John Wall finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. Bradley Beal had 18 points, six rebounds, and eight assists. Rivers and Morris scored 18 (12 came in the fourth quarter) and 15 points off the bench. Julius Randle had a big night, scoring 29 points and pulling down 15 rebounds. Nikola Mirotic had 24 points on an efficient 7-of-12 shooting, knocking down five triples. ETwaun Moore had 19 and Jrue Holiday added 16 points with nine assists.
Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard missed the game with injuries, Howard was a game time decision while Davis was held out with a right hip strain. Davis played in the game against New York in the first half of the back-to-back.
Otto came out the gate pretty assertive, his teammates continued to feed him as he scored 16 in the opening period. It was a pretty offensive quarter from the Wizards as the shot 66% from the floor and 50% from deep, they had 10 assists on 16 made field goals. The extra pass was happening and quality shots were being taken. The problem is that the Pelicans had similar success on the offensive end, shooting 62% from the floor despite hitting just one three pointer. They did their damage inside, the main culprit was Randle as he scored 12 points, missing just two shots.
The lack of defense continued in the second quarter as both teams continued to trade baskets. Washington had a few opportunities where the carved out a small lead, but they weren't able to generate stops to create any separation. The same could be said for the Pelicans, they regained the lead but couldn't sustain it. Both Wall and Beal got going in the second, scoring eight and seven points respectively. Outside of a turnover right before the halftime buzzer, John and Brad did a good job of attacking the basket under control. On the other side, Moore scored seven points after scoring eight in the first quarter. He found a few open spots in transition and made the most of it.
The Pelicans started the second half strong, a 6-0 run led to a quick timeout from Washington's Head Coach Scott Brooks. Porter broke his team's scoring drought by scoring the five quick points. They were able to regain the lead with four minutes left in the period, courtesy of a 13-2 run. As had been the trend all first half, New Orleans responded promptly. Holiday tied things at 88 with a turnaround jumper in the post over Rivers. Julius Randle hit a fall-away as the buzzer sounded to give his team a one point lead heading into the fourth. During the third, Porter and Holiday led their respective teams in the scoring department with seven a piece.
Rivers. It was probably his best game as a member of the Wizards, he was very efficient on the offensive end and extremely active defensively. He was part of the lineup that allowed Washington to take control of the game. Austin was assertive and decisive all night long, putting pressure on the Pelicans no matter who was on the floor with him.
Porter. He was the guy Washington gave that big contract to. An assertive versatile player on the offensive end that made the Pelicans pay for staying with Beal and Wall. He attacked the mismatches as needed and helped out on the boards, Porter was the tip of the spear for the Wizards in this contest. It's about consistency, he plays with two guys that don't have an issue sharing the ball. It's up to Otto to maintain this level of assertiveness going forward, if he does the Wizards are a different team.
Defense. The fourth quarter was another example of the type of defensive team Washington can be when they put forth the required effort. They were swarming the ball handlers, helping the helper and getting out in transition. As we've stated all year long, it's about stacking these types of quarters consistently. That period in which they played that level of defense is how they created the separation needed to beat the Pelicans.
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