Porter's big night leads Wizards past Pelicans, 124-114

addByline("Chris Gehring", "WashingtonWizards.com", "cdgehring");

Perhaps the best way to get past a tough road loss is to get back on the floor as soon as possible. The Wizards seemed to be fine with a quick turnaround on their home court Saturday after a Friday night loss in Toronto, as they both started and finished the second leg of a back-to-back strong. Otto Porter Jr.’s season-best 29 points led the way as the Wizards saved the best for last in a 124-114 victory over the Pelicans in D.C. With the win, Washington has now won 13 of its last 14 (and seven straight) games against New Orleans.

Saturday’s contest was the second part of a back-to-back for both New Orleans and Washington, and each was missing a key starter as both Anthony Davis (hip) and Dwight Howard (gluteal soreness) sat out the game. Nonetheless, the Wizards used their best shooting night of the season (56.7% from the field) to finish off the Pelicans.

Both teams were scorching hot in the first half, with the Wizards shooting 28-of-45 (62.2%) and Pelicans making 26-of-42 (61.9%) shots. Porter had 16 points on 6-of-7 (85.7%) shooting in the first quarter alone. John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Porter combined for 17-of-23 (73.9%) shooting in the first half overall. Julius Randle (team-high 29 points, 15 rebounds), who started in place for Davis, led the Pelicans with 17 first half points, while E’Twaun Moore (19 points) made all seven of his shots for 15 points before the break.

The difference in the game came in the final frame when the Wizards outscored the Pelicans 34-23 in the fourth after neither team had led by double-digits and the third quarter finished with New Orleans up by just a point. Austin Rivers (12 of his 18 points) and Markieff Morris (eight of his 15) led the charge down the stretch, playing all 12 minutes in the fourth and helping to engineer a key 10-2 run early in the quarter that put the Pelicans on their heels for the first time on the night. Porter and Rivers added the critical buckets in the final six minutes of the game to put the victory on ice.

While the second unit’s production proved to be the spark on the night, efficient production came from the starters as well. In addition to Porter shooting 12-for-15 and leading the team in the scoring department, John Wall (22 points) and Bradley Beal (18) both shot well and added eight assists apiece. The trio of Wall, Beal and Porter were critical to a 13-2 run in the third quarter that erased a seven-point deficit, forcing Pelicans turnovers and converting in transition.

With Howard missing another game Saturday, Scott Brooks stuck with his starting lineup that included Kelly Oubre Jr. (12 points) and Thomas Bryant. He also kept with a nine-man rotation on the night, which paid dividends despite some heavy minutes for key players (Bradley Beal logged 44 on the night). Morris’ performance was what stood out.

“I thought he was great,” said Brooks postgame. “He has actually been a true pro, when I had my conversation with him that he was going to come off the bench and be our sixth man. And he’s played well. He’s made some shots, he’s rebounding the ball. Tonight was a great example of when he plays well, we are hard to beat. He’s a matchup problem.”

“It was great,” said Beal of the rotation changes starting to pay off. “We’ve been having some success with it, so (Brooks) is sticking with it. We’re getting the fire out of the starters and the bench now. It’s at the point where he’s in control and he’s starting to go with who is going to give him what he needs. It was good to see Keef [Markieff Morris] get his rhythm back, and the same with Austin [Rivers], to get him going, too. We’re definitely going to need them going forward.”

Next, the Wizards will host the Houston Rockets on Monday night at 7:00 P.M.