WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards lost to the New Orleans Pelicans 132-112 on Monday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five takeaways from what went down…
Three straight losses
Facing a Pelicans team without Zion Williamson, Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said it was New Orleans’ defense that he was focused on the most during his pregame press conference. They have been very good on both ends of the floor, ranking seventh in offensive rating and fifth in defense.
The Wizards solved the defense part, aside from laying an egg in the second quarter. They just couldn’t stop the Pelicans’ offense, as they shot 53.3% for the game and had 100 points before the fourth quarter began. The Wizards, meanwhile, had 20 turnovers which the Pels exchanged for 39 points on the other end, the most Washington has allowed off turnovers this season. The Wizards have been good this year at limiting turnovers, but have really slipped in that regard lately.
The net result of this one was the Wizards’ third straight loss. They are 17-24 on the season, right at the halfway mark, and currently heading in the wrong direction. Washington will also be without Bradley Beal for at least one more game before his hamstring is re-evaluated.
Off night for Kuz
Kyle Kuzma came out on a heater, scoring 13 points in the first quarter. But early in the second quarter he picked up his third foul, then a technical and those two events seem to set forth what ultimately became a frustrating night for the Wizards veteran. Kuzma would later get a flagrant foul and then foul out moments later. He also had five turnovers for the game.
Kuzma ended the night with a decent stat-line overall; 19 points, eight rebounds and two assists, shooting 6-for-13 from the field, 3-for-8 from three and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. But, clearly, things boiled over later on, long after the Wizards squandered a 10-0 start in the second quarter for a deficit that reached 27 at its peak. The Pelicans are a scrappy team, which may have gotten under Kuzma’s skin a bit. But the Wizards are also losing right now and he’s probably not thrilled about that.
Kuzma is a versatile player, so he does a lot of things on the court. But one thing he rarely does is get a technical foul. He got one in this game, though, out of frustration for picking up his third foul early in the second quarter. Kuzma was called for an offensive foul for making contact with Jose Alvarado above the shoulders. He ran by referee Scott Wall and dropped the ball next to him as he sprinted down the sideline.
That did not sit well with Wall, who T’d him up. It was just the second technical foul for Kuzma this year after he went two full seasons without one. Kuzma, in fact, now has a career-high with two techs in a single season. He only has five totals in his six-year NBA career. Kuzma generally keeps his cool very well for a player who is on the court quite a bit. His flagrant foul was also against Alvarado, as Kuzma clipped Alvarado in the face with an elbow driving through the lane in the fourth quarter.
McCollum vs. Goodwin
The Wizards had some issues limiting CJ McCollum, who went off for 34 points including 20 in the first half. He had 16 in the first quarter alone. It was one of those nights where a very good player was on and there wasn’t much the Wizards could do to stop him. McCollum shot 12-for-21 from the field, including 4-for-8 from three. Some of those threes were probably a little too open for Unseld Jr.’s liking.
After McCollum’s early barrage, the Wizards put Jordan Goodwin on him for a few stretches, evidently hoping his physical defense would give McCollum some issues. McCollum, though, did a masterful job of weaving in and out of traffic to elude Goodwin and the rest of the Wizards. Goodwin played him aggressively. following him around screens and reaching for steals. But McCollum was a half-step ahead of him with pure veteran craft. It was interesting to watch because it may have been a learning experience for Goodwin, a very talented young defender who is still learning the tricks of the trade.
Davis is injured
Unseld Jr. revealed before the game that rookie 10th overall pick Johnny Davis is dealing with a hip injury, preventing him from playing with the Capital City Go-Go. Unseld Jr. indicated it wasn’t serious and he was at the Wizards’ Sunday practice working out on the court with trainers.
Still, it’s another bump in the road for Davis, who continues to face obstacles in the early goings of his NBA career. It’s only the halfway point, however, so maybe things will look different a few months from now. He just has to get past another injury first.