Beal’s big second half helps Wizards top Pelicans
WASHINGTON — John Wall’s best up-tempo performance since returning from a knee injury set the early tone. The Washington Wizards needed a seat belt from there for a wild and successful ride against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Bradley Beal scored 22 of his 26 points during the second half of a game loaded with massive point swings as the Wizards outlasted the New Orleans Pelicans 116-106 on Tuesday night.
Mike Scott had 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting for the Wizards (17-14), who rebounded from Sunday’s 106-99 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wall finished with 18 points and 10 assists.
Washington led by as many as 25 points in the first half, but New Orleans tied the score at 61 with 10:21 remaining in the third quarter after a free throw-heavy surge. The Wizards then closed the quarter with a 32-9 run for a 93-70 lead.
“It seemed like two games in one,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.
Anthony Davis scored 22 of his 37 points in the first half for the Pelicans (15-16), who have dropped three of four.
New Orleans opened the fourth quarter with eight consecutive points but never truly threatened from there.
“We’re letting teams come out and jump on us early and now we’re just playing uphill the whole time,” Davis said. “When you close that lead and try and fight back, you just kind of tire yourself out.”
Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins had 26 points and 13 rebounds. New Orleans has surrendered at least 100 points in 12 consecutive games.
“I can’t speak on the past games,” Cousins said of the defensive struggles, “but tonight, no effort.”
The Wizards shot 50 percent from the field en route to defeating the Pelicans for the 11th time in 12 games. New Orleans finished at 42.5 percent but hit 33 of 40 free throws.
Davis played 37 minutes despite spraining an ankle in Friday’s 117-110 overtime loss at Denver and not starting the second half after tweaking a wrist.
In his fourth game since missing nine consecutive with a knee injury, Wall returned to his All-Star form with 14 points and six assists in the first half, and the Wizards were off and running.
“He’s the engine. We go when he’s aggressive,” Brooks said. “I tell our guys all the time we’re one of the best teams in the league when we get a defensive stop and run. That’s what happened tonight — twice.”
Wall also sank 4 of 8 shots from beyond the arc as Washington finished with 14 3-pointers.
“Basically (Brooks) telling me just be aggressive and don’t worry about minutes, go play,” Wall said of his energized performance.
From 36-19 after the first quarter, Washington led 56-33 when Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was hit with a technical foul with 6:36 remaining.
New Orleans then closed the half with a 22-5 run, including an 18-0 spurt with 16 points from the free-throw line.
Davis, while putting numerous defenders in foul trouble, went 10 of 10 from the foul line and the Wizards collectively attempted five free throws in the opening half.
New Orleans extended the surge with six consecutive points opening the third quarter, forcing a Washington timeout. The Wizards countered with a 7-0 run and eventually pushed the margin to 91-68.
“You may be able to do that one time in an NBA game where you’re down 20, 25 points to be able to work your way back all the way to a tie,” Gentry said. “But you give them separation again and the chances are not very good that you’re going to do that (again).”
The Pelicans’ starting backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo missed all six shots in the first half. They finished 4 of 14 from the field for 13 points, all by Holiday.
Beal sprained an ankle during the game and said it will be examined Wednesday, but he remained in the game and played 36 minutes.
NOTES: Pelicans F E’Twaun Moore had 12 points. ... With F Otto Porter (hip) out, Washington’s starting lineup has missed 21-man games this season. The same five-man unit missed 17 all of last season. ... New Orleans made at least 10 3-pointers in 11 games before finishing 5 for 20 in Washington. ... Wizards backup G Tim Frazier served in the same role for the Pelicans last season. ... New Orleans visits Orlando on Friday for its third stop on a four-game road swing. Washington plays at Brooklyn on Friday after a 103-98 road loss to the Nets on Dec. 12.