Wizards extend home streak to 17
WIZARDS 105, PELICANS 91
It has been so long, almost three months, since the Washington Wizards had felt the disappointment of a loss at home. Washington’s star point guard didn’t want to be reminded of the feeling Saturday night at Verizon Center.
With 1:15 remaining and New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis staring him down, John Wall unleashed a 21-foot jumper as part of a game-closing 15-0 run, then scrambled to fling his body to the floor after Jrue Holiday’s errant dribble. Wall forced a turnover and effectively sealed the Wizards’ 105-91 victory, extending Washington’s home winning streak to 17 games.
The Wizards last lost at home Dec. 6 and now have the second-longest home streak in franchise history, behind only the 1974-75 Bullets. That team won 22 in a row and advanced to the NBA Finals, where it was swept by the Warriors. If these Wizards are to reach 22 straight wins at Verizon Center, No. 22 will come against, yes, Golden State.
Plenty of home tests await before that Feb. 28 date against the Warriors, including Monday night’s game against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. But Saturday night’s win again showed the defensive resilience and growing confidence that have defined Washington’s run.
“We’re locked in, playing better defense as a team. Just our offense — it’s just free flowing, everybody’s getting touches,” Wall summarized, before giving a nod to Saturday’s starters. “All five guys in double figures, and our bench is playing great.”
Washington (30-20) has won seven straight overall — its longest winning streak in 12 years — and maintained its half-game lead over Atlanta in the Southeast Division behind a late push in which the Wizards’ defense allowed New Orleans just eight points in the fourth quarter. Davis, who led all players with 25 points and added 10 rebounds, took just three shots in the fourth period and didn’t connect on any of them.
The Wizards, now in third in the Eastern Conference, outscored New Orleans 25-8 in the final quarter. The Pelicans didn’t score in the final 5:52.
“We want to play solid throughout the game, and in the fourth quarter, it’s always been about picking up the intensity,” Washington Coach Scott Brooks said. “You have a choice to do that in the fourth quarter.”
The turnaround in the final period had much to do with the Wizards’ second-unit defense, which set the tone by blocking New Orleans’s first three shots of the fourth quarter.
“[The bench] was a big part of our win because we were flat, we had nothing going,” Brooks said. “They got defensive stops. They got good execution on offense. They got easy buckets, and they gave us the chance to have our starters come back in and finish the game off.”
Wall had a team-high 24 points to go with 13 assists and five steals. Markieff Morris added 18 points — and had a tone-setting dunk in the fourth quarter to start that game-closing run. Marcin Gortat, to the delight of many in the crowd of 19,651 on Polish Heritage Night, had 12 points and led all players with 17 rebounds.
Washington, though pleased with its effort, would rather not have to depend on an emphatic fourth quarter to seal a win moving forward. Wall had that in mind as he thought ahead to extending the Wizards’ overall win streak, not just its run at Verizon Center.
“It’s great that we’re doing that, but we try to avoid those opportunities to have to do that, because when you’re on the road and you got the opposing team’s crowd into it, it’s kind of tough to get back,” Wall said. “Our crowd has been amazing for us to give us the opportunity to get those runs and get those stops. We have to do a better job of coming out of the third quarter [in the] first five minutes. Keep our lead where it’s at, try to put teams away. Try not to give them life.”
The task gets tougher Monday.
Washington’s Markieff Morris, who scored 18 points, shoots over New Orleans’s Dante Cunningham.