The Washington Wizards topped the New Orleans Pelicans 124-114 on Saturday night. Here are five observations from the game...
Win No. 7
The Wizards' season can only be saved one game at a time and, at this point, they will take anything they can get.
So, even though Anthony Davis was out on Saturday, getting a win against the Pelicans feels like no small feat. The Wizards got the victory after flying back from Toronto the night before, and their 7-12 record feels like progress.
The Wizards have now won two of their last three games. Both of those wins have had some parallels.
Just like they did on Tuesday against the Clippers, the Wizards overcame an awful first half defensively to lock down in the second half and secure a victory. Against the Pelicans, they gave up 68 points in the first half, but only 46 in the second.
They still can't start games like they should, but the Wizards are making the proper halftime adjustments to put themselves in position to win.
Otto went off
Otto Porter Jr. has low-key been heating up. He came into this game having reached double figures in four of his last five outings and very quickly found his rhythm against the Pelicans.
Porter came out hot and made six of his first seven shots. By halftime, he had 16 points in 16 minutes.
Porter ended up with a season-high 29 points and shot 12-for-15. After he knocked down some early shots, he gave the Wizards no choice but to involve him more in the offense.
Porter is also clearly being much more aggressive once the ball swings his way. He's been more decisive with turnaround looks in the midrange and drives to the rim more often.
Porter is getting rewarded for attacking the paint. He has attempted 15 free throws in the last five games after taking 11 total in his previous 14.
Rivers came through
Saturday night was a reminder of why the Wizards traded for Austin Rivers. The backup guard has had as disappointing a season as anyone on their roster, but against the Pelicans - his former team - he did exactly what Washington wants him to do.
With the Wizards locked in an uncomfortably close shootout, Rivers seized momentum with big plays on both ends of the floor. He blew up in the second half with 14 of his 18 points. He shot 8-for-11 and added two rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks.
There was a noticeable difference in Rivers with the ball in his hands. He was assertive in attacking off the dribble and went through his dribble combinations with trademark cockiness.
His game seems to ebb and flow with his confidence, which is usual for any basketball player. But because Rivers is such an expressive and energetic guy, it is even more obvious.
Morris showing life
The overall numbers may not show it in this game, but a fire may have been lit under Markieff Morris.
The Wizards power forward was demoted from the starting lineup three games ago and has since produced mixed results. But on Saturday, he was locked in.
Morris finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. He had two steals and a nice block on Frank Jackson in the fourth quarter.
Morris' biggest contribution was slowing Julius Randle, who was dominant in the first quarter against the Wizards' starting five. Morris matched Randle's physical style and helped prevent him from getting to the rim at ease.
This game was a good example of how Morris can anchor the second unit offensively. He found a rhythm scoring in the post and it seemed to open up the floor for everyone else. That's what head coach Scott Brooks was hoping for when he made the switch.
Howard out again
The Wizards were without their starting center, Dwight Howard, for the third straight game as he continues to deal with a strained piriformis muscle. Howard, though, appears to be very close.
He travelled with the team to Toronto on Friday and was considered a gametime decision for Saturday. The Wizards ultimately held him out, but he went through a full workout before tipoff.
At this point, it seems like a safe bet he returns this week and possibly as early as Monday against his former team, the Houston Rockets. The Wizards could use him going up against Clint Capela, and because they need fouls to spend against James Harden.
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