Wizards vs. Pelicans final score: Washington does enough in first 40 minutes to secure 102-96 victory

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

The Wizards played a magnificent game for about 40 minutes, but saw their lead nearly slip away before finally securing the 102-96 victory to improve to 16-17 on the year.

Just one more game to get to .500. Things got interesting late, but the Wizards are now 16-17 after a 102-96 win against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Last night in Charlotte, the Wizards did two things incredibly well: Protect the ball and score efficiently. Tonight was no different, as the Wizards committed 12 turnovers, well below their season average, while shooting nearly 48 percent from the field. They received huge contributions from both Trevor Ariza and Jan Vesely, the former breaking out of his slump while the latter providing a huge boost off the bench on both ends of the floor. They quickly built a double digit lead by the end of the first half, and continued their strong play before letting their foot off the gas in #SoWizards fashion. The Pelicans made a late comeback, but fell short and the Wizards hung on for the win.

The Wizards looked exactly like a team on the end of a back-to-back on the road to start. They were lost defensively and refused to get back in transition -- and amazingly let Anthony Davis run in for an easy dunk without a defender so much as 10 feet from him. Luckily for them, they stayed in it by making a number of shots from the perimeter with New Orleans refusing to show on ball handlers in the pick and rolls. The Wizards, as they're so accustomed to doing, had no qualms over firing away from midrange, and it was Trevor Ariza -- making his return to New Orleans -- leading the way with 7 first quarter points.

The second quarter is where the Wizards took control, led by one Jan Vesely, who scored 8 points while snatching down four offensive rebounds. He was active as usual, roaming the baselines, ducking in for quick shots down low, running the floor for lobs and even displaying a sweeping hook in the lane. The half ended with John Wall taking over, hitting on another miracle heave from 30 feet as the shot clock expired while also relentlessly attacking an extremely porous defense. But the quarter completely belonged to the second unit, led by the trio of Nene, Webster, and Vesely.

The third didn't start well, but just when it looked like New Orleans would stage a comeback, Wall raced down the floor, put the ball behind his back in traffic, and whipped a pass to Bradley Beal in the corner for the wide-open three. Pro tip: When you see John Wall running into the teeth of your defense, locate Beal sitting in the corner and stay on him. Al-Farouq Aminu couldn't grasp the concept, and it got Beal two more threes from almost the same spot on the floor.

Soon enough, this was a 20 point lead, and the Wizards comfortably coasted until about the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter, where they went cold from the field. They wouldn't score a single bucket for another five minutes, while the Pelicans slowly chipped away at the lead. Fortunately, it was a little too late, and the Wiz did just enough in the first 40 minutes or so to secure the victory.

Enjoy this victory tonight, the Pacers are up next on the schedule.

Here are my game notes:

  • As was the case last night in Charlotte, the Wizards got the ball to Beal early off rebounds and looked to push it. Problem is, it took Wall completely out of the offense and relegated him to a spot-up shooter. They're still working out the kinks, and I'm sure things will be a lot smoother once Beal is officially off his minutes limit, but it's discouraging to see Wall (among others) not even attempting to do anything off-ball.
  • With help from John Townsend, Wizards first quarter attempts came from: 22, 22, 14, 25, 14, 24, 15, 14, 21, 25, 15, 8, 25, 21, and 24 feet.There were exactly three other attempts taken inside the painted area.
  • I never understood why Vesely got in the doghouse earlier in December. He played well off Nene in the first half, showed off a soft touch on a rolling hook in the lane, and followed it up the following possession by flashing into the open space to earn him a trip to the line. I'll definitely take his energy and effort on the glass over Kevin Seraphin's play.
  • We witnessed double teams on both Otto Porter and Vesely, all in the first half. The Pelicans were a mess defensively.
  • Mike noted it on Twitter and I couldn't have agreed more: The Wizards really weren't doing anything all that amazing, the Pelicans just played horrid defense all night long. They regularly left ball handlers wide open off the pick and roll and continued to cheat down in the paint, leading to easy threes.
  • Nene racked up three consecutive turnovers because the offense suddenly felt the need to attack a Pelicans defense that's collapsed the paint on almost every possession throughout the night. I've never been a fan of operating through post-ups because it allows teams to double-team easily, but the Wizards insist on doing so despite all of their bigs working better out of the pick and roll.
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