Wizards 92, Pelicans 85
Say what you will about what fashion wins come in, but after a grueling first four games of this Western Conference road trip, the Wizards absolutely needed to depart from Bourbon Street with a victory however they could get it.
A three-game losing streak is snapped, some of my sanity restored, and a more jubilant flight back to DC are the perks of last night’s 92-85 win in New Orleans. The Wizards were blessed with several big factors including a much improved bench performance, some valuable contributions from Paul Pierce, and John Wall’s league-destroying 20th double-double of the season.
A 2-3 finish is just about what you could expect from the Wizards in this road trip. They played well but required an escape route against the Rockets; they folded in Dallas; then fought the Thunder and Spurs to the final minute. A likely playoff-bound Pelicans team led by an MVP candidate is a quality trip-concluding win for the Wizards, and with the toughest phase of their schedule behind them, here’s hoping the necessary lessons are learned as the unrelenting season wears on.
The takeaways from tonight:
Andre and the bench.
For the second time in this road trip, The Professor broke into an utter state of authority, handing out detention slips at will and none was more punished than Austin Rivers. Miller dominated Rivers like horse shit dominates Bourbon Street and it’s incredibly mysterious to watch sometimes. Miller made hot wings out of the Pelicans, using his elevation and control to knock down jumpers and crafty movement out of the post to deceive his defenders. He finished with 12 points on 5-5-5 shooting.
The rest of the bench, save for Rasual Butler, followed Miller’s lead, combining for 53% shooting and 41 points. Their defense was key on a few possessions as well as they totaled six blocks. Kris Humphries continues to be a marksman from midrange while his reliability continues to be a grave asset for this offense. Otto Porter: Certified stat sheet filler. Six points on 3-5 shooting, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. The intangibles are vast and his awareness on both ends of the floor continues to delight us.
The bench catapulted the Wizards from a 4 point lead at the end of the 1st quarter to 10 in just a matter of minutes, getting strong possessions from Seraphin, smart defensive plays by Otto, and of course, Andre Miller toasting. Miller continued to unravel the Pelicans in the 4th, scoring 8 points in six minutes, helping the Wizards build a 9-point lead early.
With John Wall, it’s always double the pleasure.
Wall was just one assist shy of his 20th double-double this season, BY HALFTIME. Finishing with 15 points and 12 dimes, New Orleans hadn’t seen anyone shine this bright since Master P flossed his grill on No Limit CD covers. Besides the serious knack for creating points, Wall’s defense continues to put a pitchfork in opposing offenses but even that takes us back to the concept of creating points because with Wall, turnovers usually transform into immediate scoring opportunities for the Wizards. Way to mess that point up. I still made it, though. For the record, John committed four steals last night.
For me, the biggest delight to Wall’s game this season has been his incredibly improved jump shot. Save for the four missed 3’s tonight, Wall shot the ball really well from outside the paint, going 4-for-7 on shots ranging from 16 to 21 feet. What can testify to the improvement? A lot of confidence. Once things like elevation, form, and release are established, the belief in your shot is what eventually drives you to take them, and eventually start making them. Wall has worked relentlessly to establish this one last facet of his game and we’re seeing now how it’s put him in a different stratosphere from other guards in the league.