NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Trying to stop their longest slide of the season at three games, Washington coach Randy Wittman gave his team a concrete goal: Hold the high-scoring Pelicans under 100 points.
The focus on defense produced 18 New Orleans turnovers, seven blocked shots and opportunities for speedy guard John Wall to thrive in transition.
Wall finished with 15 points and 12 assists, and the Wizards left New Orleans with a 92-85 victory on Monday night.
"We got back to our concepts of helping each other," Wall said. "We blocked shots. We covered for each other."
Paul Pierce scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting for Washington, which had five players in double figures. Andre Miller added 12 points, and Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries each had 10.
The Pelicans came in averaging nearly 102 points per game. Washington had allowed more than 100 in four straight, with the only win in that span being a 104-103 victory at Houston.
"When we don't give up 100 points we're pretty much the best team in the league," Pierce said, alluding to Washington's 13-1 record when holding opponents to 99 or fewer. "We can't be a team that allows (opponents) easy opportunities in the paint. We can't be a team that turns the ball over more than we assist. ... So we got back to the basic principles of who we are today. Hopefully it'll carry over."
Anthony Davis had 21 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, which led only once — by a single point in the first 4 minutes of the game.
Tyreke Evans, playing despite an illness that kept him out of the team's shootaround earlier in the day, scored 21 points.
Pelicans guard Eric Gordon, returning from a left shoulder injury, played for the first time in 21 games, but scored only six points on 2-of-8 shooting in 33 minutes.
"We were trying to make the right play, but (the Wizards) were covering up our options," Davis said. "We have got to get our offense moving faster and push the ball."
In the first half, Gordon attempted six shots, while Davis took three.
Pelicans coach Monty Williams lamented that Davis' 12 shots for the game were too few.
"We didn't get enough touches for him because we kept turning the ball over," Williams said.
Ryan Anderson scored 14 for New Orleans, including a 3-pointer that pulled the Pelicans to 81-77 with 5:13 left.
At that point, New Orleans, which entered 11-4 at home, looked primed to make a run, but stumbled instead.
Humphries tipped in Bradley Beal's missed jumper, then Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, who had 13 points, lost the ball on the other end. Humphries struck again, sneaking behind New Orleans' defense late in the shot clock for a dunk.
Wall's jumper made it 89-79, and Washington held on to close out a five-game Western Conference road swing on a winning note.
"Home teams tend to find ways to make a run. We found a way to hold them off," Miller said. "Tonight was a night we are excited about, finishing out the road trip and getting our job done."
Wall had 11 points in the first half, when Washington shot 56.4 percent and led by as many as 10 in the second quarter. Pierce's layup gave the Wizards a 52-44 halftime lead.
Davis and Evans were the only Pelicans players to score in the third quarter, but their combined 20 points were enough to trim Washington's lead to 69-64.
Wizards: Washington has won seven straight against New Orleans. ... Washington's only ugly stat was 2 for 10 from 3-point range. Pierce was perfect, though, making both 3s he attempted.
Pelicans: Gordon wore a black compression undershirt during the game to help stabilize his left shoulder, which he sprained on Nov. 22, sidelining him for six weeks. ... The Pelicans (17-17) were trying to go two games above .500 for the first time since late November, when they were 7-5.
Washington (23-11) finished what might have been its toughest road trip this season at 2-3, starting with the victory at Houston, followed by losses at Dallas, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. Only the loss to the Mavericks wasn't close.
"The way we competed the last few games, we can deal with that," Wall said.
Wizards: Host New York on Wednesday.
Pelicans: Visit Charlotte on Wednesday.
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Posted on Tue, January 6, 2015
by BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer