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Takeaways from Wizards' road win over Pelicans

Takeaways from Wizards' road win over Pelicans

It took three quarters for Markieff Morris to wake up and take advantage of the matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans, and when he did he sparked the Wizards for two runs – the latter leading them to a 107-94 win at Smoothie King Center on Sunday.

It was the Wizards’ fourth win in a row, eighth in nine games and their fourth in five road games.

New Orleans (19-29) had trimmed the deficit to 83-80 after Anthony Davis completed a layup and the free throw on the foul and another foul shot after Wizards coach Scott Brooks was assessed a technical.

But the Wizards (27-20) went on an 8-0 that included a three by Morris and Bradley Beal to go up again by double digits. Otto Porter’s third three-pointer and another jumper by Morris sealed it with a 100-88 lead with a little more than three minutes left.

John Wall (18 points, 19 assists) earned his 27th double-double and Marcin Gortat (17 points, 11 rebounds) his 26th double-double. Beal (27 points, six rebounds) and Morris (21 points, eight rebounds) also contributed. Wall's 19 assists tied a career-high.

Anthony Davis (36 points, 17 rebounds) and Jrue Holiday (26 points, 11 assists) led New Orleans in a comeback from an 18-point deficit.  The duo combined to make 26 of 44 shots but didn’t get much help elsewhere. No other starter scored in double figures.

The Wizards are 21-9 since Dec. 1, the best record in that span in the East. They’ve won 9 of 10 vs. the Pelicans.

[RELATED: WATCH: Wall posterizes Davis in Wildcat-on-Wildcat crime]

-- The Morris-Trey Burke combination continues to thrive. Morris scored off two assists from Burke to begin the fourth quarter, including a three-pointer, and he returned the favor to the point guard on a cut to the basket. It helped steady the Wizards with the outcome in the balance.

--The Pelicans were held to 40 points in the first half, only the third time the Wizards kept a team to 40 or less. The previous two times came against the same team – in a Nov. 5 loss vs. the Orlando Magic and 38 on Nov. 25 in a win vs. Orlando. It marked the third consecutive road game an opponent has been held to 48 or less.

--New Orleans is known for switching smalls onto bigs, and vice versa. They allowed Solomon Hill to matchup with Gortat in the low post and Holiday vs. Morris and Buddy Hield vs. Morris. They didn’t make them pay enough early because they rarely finished these chances, though it did allow for Jason Smith’s highlight, one-handed putback dunk on an offensive rebound. Wall took full advantage of when he was guarded at the top of the key on a switch by Donatas Motiejunas. He blew by him for a tomahawk dunk in the first quarter. Wall ended the first half with consecutive jumpers for a 57-40 lead with Motiejunas again stranded at the top of the key. He played so soft, Wall was able to get into a rhythm on his dribble and pull up.

--The defense slacked off to begin the third quarter when Holiday was allowed to step into three-pointers without anyone running at him in transition. They got the lead down to 66-58 with a 7-0 run but the Wizards aided them in the comeback. They turned the ball over in four of their first six possessions out of the locker room, allowing New Orleans to briefly take the lead 73-72 with 49.6 seconds left. It Washington’s first time trailing in a game since 6-5 to the Charlotte Hornets on Jan. 23.

--Davis only scored 27 total points in two meetings with the Wizards last season, but he keyed the run in the third when he made 7 of 10 shots. Davis has played at center since the season began, when Omer Asik had the starting job until falling out of coach Alvin Gentry’s rotation. While Davis can be pushed around by traditional bigs, he’s difficult for them to cover away from the rim. He only had eight points in the first half when the Pelicans were isolation heavy. But they got more motion into their sets and into transition.

[RELATED: Wall beats buzzer again, this time to end 1st half vs. Pelicans]

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Breaking down the Wizards' 2018 draft class

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller analyze the Wizards' two picks the night of the draft.

They went in-depth on first round pick Troy Brown, Jr. and why the Wizards took him when some big names were still on the board. They also broke down why the Wizards chose to pick a draft-and-stash guy in the second round.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!