Wizards 116 – Pelicans 106: Washington Wins the Game of Runs | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards 116 – Pelicans 106: Washington Wins the Game of Runs

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Updated: December 20, 2017

[Photo via the Washington Wizards Official Twitter Account.]

Coach Scott Brooks seemed to have on his prognostication hat prior to last night’s Wizards/Pelicans game, because he seemed quite confident that John Wall–who had been averaging just 14.3 points and 5.0 assists while under a minutes restriction–would start to resemble his old self:

“John is at his best playing with speed down the court, coast-to-coast basketball, finding the open shooters, getting to the rim himself. He didn’t play for almost three weeks so this is his fourth game back I think he’s ready. The minutes are going to be ramped up, he’s feeling good–you know its always tough when one of your better players is on a minutes restriction, not only for the team but for himself too.  But I think he’s ready to really break out with his speed and that’s when we’re at our best.”

Wall was scoreless the first five minutes of the first quarter but he still had two assists and it was apparent that he was feeling quite spry. He pushed the ball up court aggressively, he found Gortat for two cutting layups, and no amount of resistance from Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday seemed sufficient enough to slow Wall down. But he was just getting started.

The last seven minutes of the  first quarter, Wall had 14 points, four assists and zero turnovers and his speed, combined with his adept decision-making in the open court, helped the Wizards jump out to a sizable 36-19 lead. Wall said after the game that he attributed his strong start to Coach Brooks telling him to be aggressive and not worry about his minutes.

The bench took the scoring baton from Wall and the rest of the starters and they proceeded to widen the lead–thanks mostly to the sharpshooting of Mike Scott.

Scott, who Bradley Beal called “Mr. Efficient” after the game, made his first five shots, and ended up shooting 6-of-7 in the second quarter for 14 points. He hit two 3-pointers, mid-range jumpers and even scored on two pull-up jumpers at closer range. He shouldered most of the scoring load in the quarter, but the rest of the bench also had a hand in extending the lead to 23 points halfway through the second quarter. Satoransky had four points and two assists, Jodie Meeks hit an open 3-pointer and Ian Mahinmi had three assists of his own. It looked like the entire team was feeding off Wall’s energetic start, and the result was going to be a Wizards blowout.

Then the Pelicans decided they could make a run of their own. It all started with a technical foul on Pelicans’ Coach Alvin Gentry with 6:36 left in the second quarter. It was unclear if Gentry was frustrated with a missed foul call on Jrue Holiday or if he was simply trying to motivate his team, but the combination of that technical and the listless play of the Wizards’ starters, who Coach Brooks had slowly substituted back into the game, led to a 22-5 Pelicans’ run.

The Wizards were scoreless stretch during the Pelicans’ run with five turnovers and they started fouling incessantly on defense The Pelicans capitalized on each of those mistakes. Sixteen of their 22 points during that run came via free throws and four other points came as a direct result of a Wizards turnover. The only points the Wizards starters scored during that span was a Wall free throw and even then he missed the first one.

Surely at halftime, Coach Brooks would be able to summon an inspirational speech to motivate his team–which still led by five points despite their second quarter collapse–to return to their first quarter dominance. Not so much.

The Pelicans came out of halftime and went on a quick 6-0 run to tie the game at 61, and Coach Brooks abruptly called a timeout. After the game, Coach Brooks claimed to not remember what he said to his team during the timeout, but whatever that magical elixir of words was, it was quite effective.

Markieff Morris drew a foul on Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham and hit two free throws to stop the 6-0 streak, and then the Wizards proceeded to go on a 32-9 run of their own. Wall could not serve as the catalyst this time, but luckily for him, Bradley Beal (14 points on 5-of-8 shooting) and Kelly Oubre, who was starting in place of Otto Porter (hip), contributed 8 points.

Beal admitted after the game that he couldn’t quite get a handle on how the Pelicans were defending him the first half:

“I was trying to figure out how they were guarding me because it was a little bit all over the place. Sometimes they would blitz, sometimes they wouldn’t. Sometimes they would be in the paint. I just said forget it. I’m just going to be aggressive and get the shot that I want.”

Beal played aggressively until the 4:19 mark of the third quarter when he inadvertently stepped on E’Twaun Moore’s foot and rolled his ankle. He stayed down for a few minutes, and all of his teammates ran to his side out of concern. But Beal gingerly walked to the bench and then back on the court without missing a minute of game action. Two minutes later, he drove the lane, dunked with authority, landed gingerly but refused to come out of the game.

The Pelicans trailed by 23 points at the end of the third quarter and they made a half-hearted run in the fourth (outscoring Washington 36-23) but it was not enough. The closest they got to the Wizards was 10 points, but that was at the buzzer. DeMarcus Cousins had 26 points and 13 rebounds while Anthony Davis had 37 points and nine rebounds, but that duo was no match for the Wizards’ balance.

Wall had 18 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, Beal had 26, Mike “Mr. Efficient” Scott had 24, and three other Wizards’ players (Gortat, Morris and Oubre) were also in double figures. That balance allowed the Wizards to win the game of runs, defeat the Pelicans, and win their third game in this four-game homestand. The Wizards have not played as well as they would have liked, but they are still 17-14 and sixth in the Eastern Conference. Baby steps.

 

Addenda

Mike Scott received standing ovations towards the end of the second quarter and again late in the game, for his 24-point night on 11-of-15 shooting–a much needed performance given the absence of Otto Porter. After the game Scott admitted that he stays relatively stoic on the court, but that didn’t mean he didn’t recognize the gesture of the Capital One Arena crowd:

It felt great. I don’t really show a lot of emotion on the court, but it did feel great. I’m very grateful for that. It may seem like nothing to other players, but stuff like that feels great to a player. It’s very encouraging, especially from past years I had, so, it feels great

Scott also allowed himself to show emotion at least once during the game, when the loquacious Boogie Cousins question the voracity of his isolation game by telling Scott that his “iso game was weak” after Jrue Holiday initially stripped the ball from him.  The Wizards then ran the very next play for Scott, and he responded by hitting an unconventional runner of one knee while smiling at Cousins.

When Washington Times beat writer Todd Dybas asked him about it, Scott smiled again and said,  “I wanted that shot real bad. I just laughed at him when I made it,”

 

 

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.