Mon, 20 Mar 2023

Surging Wizards face struggling Pelicans in New Orleans

Field Level Media
28 Jan 2023, 10:19 GMT+10

The Washington Wizards and the New Orleans Pelicans are heading in different directions as they meet Saturday night in New Orleans.

The Wizards have won four games in a row and the Pelicans have lost six consecutive games.

Washington's most recent win came despite falling behind by 19 points and trailing by 10 entering the fourth quarter before rallying to beat the Rockets 108-103 on Wednesday night in Houston.

"Not the prettiest game," Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "Didn't have the energy in that first half, but to their credit they responded after halftime. In that fourth quarter we really ramped it up."

Kyle Kuzma led the comeback by scoring 20 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter.

"Once he gets going, he's shooting into a big bucket," Unseld said of Kuzma. "We needed it. We trust to put the ball in his hands in these moments and he's come up big for us."

Kristaps Porzingis missed his second straight game because of an ankle injury and Monte Morris was sidelined by a sore right hamstring, but Kendrick Nunn made his debut after being acquired in a trade that sent Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. Nunn had 12 points.

"I thought he was good," Unseld said. "It's tough because we haven't had a full practice. But he just played to his strengths. He's a good player. He's got the ability to fill it up."

The Pelicans' season-worst losing streak continued Wednesday, primarily due to Minnesota outscoring them 39-21 in the third quarter on the way to a 111-102 victory.

"We have to be consistent, and right now we're not," said Willie Green, who was ejected for the first time in his two-year tenure as New Orleans head coach midway through the fourth quarter. "It's the common theme with our group over the last four or five games or so.

"It's always one quarter where it just gets away and it's something I have to figure out and something our team has to figure out. We will, but right now we're going through it and we have to pick up our juice and be consistent doing it."

Forward Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans' second-leading scorer, returned after a 29-game absence due to a bruised toe and scored 13 points in about 26 minutes, but he made just four of 18 shots from the floor.

"He's not going to be coming back from missing this long and expect him to go score 100 points," center Jonas Valanciunas said. "As good as he is, he still needs some time to get that feel back, and I am really happy that he started that. He played the first game and now we are going to see him doing more and more every game. ...

"The season is full of ups and downs and that is our down. Every team goes up and down, and that down that we feel makes us stronger."

Valanciunas had 27 points and 12 rebounds and CJ McCollum added 34 points as the Pelicans had a season-high point total in a 132-112 victory at Washington on Jan. 9.

--Field Level Media

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