Pelicans can’t afford loss to woeful Wizards


The Washington Wizards are using the NBA restart to build for the future.

The New Orleans Pelicans might find themselves doing the same thing if they don’t beat the Wizards on Friday at the Visa Athletic Center near Orlando.

The Pelicans have been in the thick of the tight battle get into a play-in opportunity in the Western Conference playoff race. However, their challenge got more difficult when they lost 140-125 to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday, leaving them 1-3 in the restart and 29-39 overall with four games to play.

“We have to come together as a whole team and discuss how we can get better,” rookie forward Zion Williamson told reporters after scoring 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting.

It was the second time in three games that porous New Orleans defense led to a double-digit loss. The Pelicans trailed the Clippers 77-45 at intermission on the way to a 126-103 loss on Saturday.

The halftime deficit against the Clippers was the largest in franchise history. The 49 points allowed to the Kings in the first quarter on Thursday were the most in any quarter in franchise history — and Sacramento added 40 points in the third quarter.

“You just can’t give up a 49-point quarter and you can’t give up a 40-point quarter,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We’ve got to be much more active defensively.”

The Pelicans enter Thursday in a tie with the Kings for 12th place, 2 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies and two games back of ninth place, the spot needed to potentially get into a play-in scenario.

“We’ve got to lock in, take pride, just be able to be disappointed when somebody scores on you,” New Orleans guard Jrue Holiday said. “This game is hard. It’s tough to play, but you’ve got to do it.”

The Wizards are one of the youngest teams in the NBA and are 0-4 in the restart while playing without leading scorers Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans.

“I think this is a great opportunity for us to put a lot of intensity on each game,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said, according to the team website. “It also gives a chance to evaluate some of your younger players and see how they play in these situations. … We have a lot of guys who don’t have a lot of NBA experience, so this is great for them.”

One of the young players taking advantage of the opportunity is Thomas Bryant, who has had a double-double in each of the last three games, averaging 23 points and 11.3 rebounds in that run.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Bryant said. “Keep improving every day — that’s my main thing, just to keep improving, especially on the defensive end, guarding multiple positions, taking the challenge head-on and being a guy this team can (count) on.”

The Wizards (24-44) have the worst record of the 22 teams participating in the restart.

“Our mission, our job, our goals have not changed,” Brooks said. “I know we’re not happy with (the record), but our job is still the same — come out here and get better every day.

“Going forward, this is going to help us. It’s definitely going to help us in the long run when everybody is whole. This is a valuable experience that a lot of teams don’t get, but we get to get it. We’re competing. We’re not wasting these games, these times or these minutes.”

–Field Level Media

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