Pelicans.com postgame: Wizards 102, Pelicans 96
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
There was a veritable buffet of excuses New Orleans Pelicans Coach Monty Williams could have chosen from to explain his team’s disappointing performance in its return home Wednesday. The Pelicans were playing the second game of a back-to-back immediately after an extended road trip, a scheduling rarity in the NBA. They were coming off a frustrating two days of spending an inordinate amount of time in the Indianapolis airport. They’ve played just three home games since Dec. 13, another bad break in the schedule.
Instead, Williams credited visiting Washington for simply being more deserving of a victory Wednesday. In fact, the Wizards – who gained control with a 33-16 burst in the second quarter – also were playing in the second game of a back-to-back. Furthermore, New Orleans (15-19) is the NBA’s third-youngest team (average age 24.5), one of 10 teams younger than Washington (16-17). The Wizards outshot, outrebounded and outhustled the Pelicans, handing New Orleans its third straight loss to an Eastern Conference foe.
“There’s no excuse for that,” Williams said when asked if fatigue factored into the loss. “We’ve got young guys. For us to not be able to play with the kind of effort it takes to win a game, especially when you’re undermanned not having Ryan (Anderson)… being tired is not an excuse. Not 30-plus games in. Maybe 50 to 60. But not right now.”
For the third straight game, a 12-minute stretch of basketball severely hampered the Pelicans’ chances of prevailing. After a 28-all tie through a quarter, the Wizards used a 17-point edge in the second to go up 61-44 at intermission. They stretched their margin to 21 through three periods. Although New Orleans rallied over the final few minutes of the fourth, it wasn’t enough against a Washington club that shot 48 percent from the field and three-point range, while enjoying a 46-37 rebounding advantage.
“We didn’t compete in the second quarter,” Williams said. “Not to the level they competed in the second quarter. They just played harder.”
Down 87-66 entering the fourth quarter, New Orleans outscored Washington 30-15 in the final 12 minutes, but it was too little, too late. The Pelicans’ four-game home winning streak came to an end in their first Big Easy defeat since Dec. 6.
“We didn’t make any adjustments (in the fourth quarter),” Williams said. “We just did what we were supposed to do, and had a 30-15 quarter.”
Eric Gordon finished as the game’s high scorer, pacing New Orleans with 23 points, all in the first three quarters. Anthony Davis added 21 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, scoring 14 of the Pelicans’ 52 second-half points.
New Orleans, which is 0-3 since Anderson was sidelined at Boston last week, now heads into another difficult stretch in which it will face four straight Southwest Division opponents (Dallas twice, San Antonio and Houston), teams all well above .500.
“If we compete and play hard, we can beat anybody,” Williams said. “I firmly believe that. I said that to our team tonight. If you’ve got that NBA symbol on your chest and you compete, you give yourself a chance to win every night. We’ve shown the ability to compete against top-level teams. That’s all we have to do, is compete. I know who we’re playing against, but that’s immaterial to me. You’ve got to give yourself a chance by competing.”