The Washington Post

Wizards’ generosity gives way to a big loss

PELICANS 127, WIZARDS 102

- BY AVA WALLACE

NEW ORLEANS — The Washington Wizards clearly needed a holiday.

Early in the second quarter, with five turnovers already under their belt, they turned in this doozy of a sequence in less than two minutes: First, backup guard Aaron Holiday turned the ball over on a bad pass. Then, backup center Montrezl Harrell gave the ball away (after missing two free throws). Twenty-one seconds later, finally with a moment to settle things down, Holiday had another giveaway on an inbounds pass — after which the New Orleans Pelicans completed a three-point play. On the very next possession, Spencer Dinwiddie chucked a pass that Holiday only got a finger on before it sailed out of bounds.

Perhaps the Wizards were just in a giving mood on the night before Thanksgivi­ng. They all but handed their worst loss of the season, 127-102, to the struggling Pelicans by looking so discombobu­lated that it seemed the first 17 games of the season had not occurred. It was not the ideal way to begin a four-game road trip.

And it was their fourth loss in the past five games.

“That’s a team that we’ve seen,” Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “They’re getting better incrementa­lly. We’re going the wrong

way.”

All of the chemistry that the Wizards (11-7) had built dissipated, and the return of forward Davis Bertans from a left ankle sprain after more than three weeks away couldn’t be blamed for the off-kilter energy because even the starters looked disorganiz­ed.

Washington worked its way up to a whopping 13 turnovers in the first half and 19 for the game, too often falling into its old bad habit of trying to solve problems by heaving up a three-pointer or cutting through the defense on an isolation play.

The Wizards did create quality, open looks when they moved the ball. In keeping with another recent trend, their shots just didn’t fall.

But bad luck at the rim is the least of Unseld’s worries. More pressing are the issues Washington can control, such as not turning the ball over and playing with organizati­on and purpose. The message to the team afterward was about accountabi­lity.

“Right now we’ve got to change things. Whether it’s changing our energy, changing our focus, if it’s changing our approach — whatever that is, it’s got to change,” Unseld said. “. . . A lot of things we’ve seen I think we can control. And we’ve talked about it at length and yet haven’t done it.”

On defense, the Wizards allowed the Pelicans (4-16) to bounce around the lane for a staggering 34 points in the paint in the first half on their way to 52 for the game. Brandon Ingram (26 points) and Jonas Valanciuna­s (21) led the Pelicans, who had lost four of five.

Here’s what else you need to know from Wednesday’s game:

Beal scores big

Bradley Beal had one of his best scoring nights in some time with 23 points on 11-for-20 shooting — but that was more a function of necessity than a healthy offense.

The all-star guard was one of four Wizards players in double figures. Dinwiddie had 11 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. Raul Neto had 13 points, and Harrell added 10.

“We’ve got to move the ball, move bodies, make sure everybody’s involved,” Beal said. “And then when we shoot, shoot with confidence.”

Bertans returns

Bertans played for the first time since he sprained his ankle Nov. 1 in Atlanta, an injury that he said turned his left foot “rainbow-colored” for a significan­t amount of time. Unseld expanded his rotation to 11 players while working Bertans in (and bumping rookie Corey Kispert from the primary group); the 6-foot-10 Latvian played 19 minutes.

He helped create looks for Washington but had a woeful shooting night, going 1 for 9 from three-point range for three points while committing four fouls.

Hachimura stays home

Bertans joined the Wizards for their road trip after practicing with their G League affiliate earlier in the week, but Rui Hachimura stayed home. The 23-year-old from Japan fully participat­ed in a light practice with the Wizards on Tuesday, when they did no live scrimmagin­g or contact work, but Unseld said he wants Hachimura to play more two-on-two and three-on-three with his teammates before he returns.

Washington has had limited time to do such small-side scrimmages with its busy schedule, but Unseld said there will be opportunit­ies for more intense practices soon.

 ?? GERALD HERBERT/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Bradley Beal (23 points) and Washington were out of sorts from the start and committed 19 turnovers.
GERALD HERBERT/ASSOCIATED PRESS Bradley Beal (23 points) and Washington were out of sorts from the start and committed 19 turnovers.

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