Pelicans look to avenge recent loss to Wizards

Nov 26, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) controls the ball against Boston Celtics center Aron Baynes (46) during the first quarter at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards beat the New Orleans Pelicans 124-114 last Saturday night in Washington.

The momentum from that game seems to have carried over in both directions as those teams prepare to meet again Wednesday night in New Orleans.

Washington stayed at home and defeated the Houston Rockets, 135-131, in overtime Monday night. At the same time New Orleans was struggling in a 124-107 home loss to the Boston Celtics.

The Wizards are feeling better about themselves after winning three of their last four. The Pelicans are regrouping after losing four in a row.

Washington guard John Wall said he recently advised his teammates to “just go out there and play basketball and have fun.”

“I think we’re starting to do it on both ends of the floor,” Wall told NBA TV, “especially on the defensive end.”

The Wizards’ mini-run began when coach Scott Brooks put Kelly Oubre, Jr. in the starting lineup in place of Markieff Morris.

“I give Markieff a lot of credit,” Brooks told the Wizards team website. “He’s stepped up. It’s not an easy thing to accept, but that’s what he does. He’s a team guy, he made the adjustment and he’s played well in that role. He’s playing his best basketball off the bench. He’s an important part of our team.”

Washington was just 5-11 prior to the lineup change.

“Since we’ve made the lineup change, everybody’s just accepting their role,” Wall told the team’s website. “No one’s worried about who’s getting the ball, we’re just focused on the defensive end.

“I think we all just started focusing on what we did two or three years ago, not worried about who’s getting the shots, just trying to lock in on the defensive end and move the ball. That’s how we’ve got to start playing for the rest of the year if we want to be one of those good teams in the East. We’ve got to find a way to take it on the road now.”

The Pelicans loss to the Celtics was just their second at home in 10 games this season, the first in which All-Star forward Anthony Davis played.

They committed eight first-quarter turnovers, fell behind by 20 points in the second quarter and could never catch up.

When the team returned to practice Tuesday morning, coach Alvin Gentry didn’t review the film with the team. He said the film would only show mistakes the players were already aware of.

“We needed to be on the floor and try and correct those things,” Gentry said. “We’ve got to get back to who we are.

“We’ve got to get our identity back. We want to push the ball and play at a high pace. Our pace has been dropping almost every game.”

As a result, New Orleans has lost four games in a row. It has allowed an average of 36.3 first-quarter points in the last three games.

“If you do that,” Gentry said, “more than likely you’re going to be playing uphill for the other 36 minutes. We’ve got to get off to better starts so that when we do go on a run, we’re creating separation and not just pulling even.”

The Wizards have won the last seven meetings and 13 of the last 14.