WASHINGTON — The basketball aphorism goes that the NBA is a game of runs, but the Washington Wizards and New Orleans Pelicans took that to an extreme on Tuesday night.
Bradley Beal led six Washington players in double figures with 26 points as the Wizards defeated New Orleans 116-106 in a game where both teams had lopsided scoring runs, with Washington coming up with a couple of more runs to put the game away.
“It seemed like it was two games in one,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. “We’re up 25 and then tied, or they took a point lead and then we jumped on them again. Our starters came out and did a good job. John [Wall], he set the table. He set the table for our guys to run and get easy buckets. I tell the guys all the time we’re one of the best teams in the league when we get a defensive stop and run. And that’s what happened tonight. Twice.”
The “Game Within The Game, Part One” occurred soon after DeMarcus Cousins hit a three for New Orleans which cut the Wizards’ lead to 16-13. Washington responded with an 11-0 run, capped off by an alley-oop dunk by Marcin Gortat from John Wall to give Washington a 27-13 advantage.
The Wizards continued to pour it on from there, and when reserve forward Mike Scott hit a turnaround jumper in the lane, Washington was up 58-33 with 6:15 remaining in the second quarter.
Scott, who has been on a tear coming off the bench lately for Washington, finished with 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting, with most of the shots coming when being guarded by smaller players for New Orleans.
“I love when a team switch me onto smaller players, just try to punish them in the paint,” said Scott, who is shooting 74 percent from the field (53-for-72) in his last eight games. “Just feeling it, so just playing freely.”
The “Game Within The Game, Part Two” commenced right after that Scott shot, with the Pelicans going on a 22-3 run to end the half, cutting Washington’s lead to 61-55. It did not take long in the third quarter for the Pelicans to complete their comeback, as an E’Twaun Moore jumper from the top of the key tied the score at 61-all.
“[Washington] put us on our heels and made baskets and we got really behind,” said Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry. “Then, I thought we locked in defensively and did a good job, especially in the second quarter to get back in the game.”
Though the Pelicans tied the came from once being down 25 points, they never were able to take the lead, and “Game Within a Game, Part Three” commenced soon after, as Washington ended the third quarter on a 32-9 run. Of those 32 points, 18 of those came in the final 4:37 of the quarter as Bradley Beal had back-to-back three-pointers sandwiched around a steal to give the Wizards a 91-68 lead in the final minute of the period.
Beal’s 26 points in the game included hitting 5-of-11 from three-point range.
“I was trying to figure out how they were guarding me because it was a little bit all over the place,” Beal said after the game. Sometimes they would blitz, sometimes they wouldn’t. Sometimes they would be in the paint. I just said forget it. I’m just going to be aggressive and get the shot that I want. I had a few open ones and getting on transition helps as well. I was just staying confident, staying in the flow. Just locking it up.”
The final margin of the game proved to be 10 points, but most of the ground New Orleans made up in the fourth quarter came when both teams’ reserves were in the game.
“You may be able to do that one time in an NBA game where you’re down 20, 25 points and be able to work your way back all the way to a tie,” said Gentry. “But you give them separation again, the chances are not very good that you’re going to do that”
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 37 points while also grabbing nine rebounds, while his frontcourt mate in Cousins finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds.
Both teams are back in action on Friday, as New Orleans continues its road trip with a stop in Orlando against the Magic while the Wizards head to New York City to play the Brooklyn Nets.