The Washington Wizards and the New Orleans Pelicans have both had recent disruptions due to COVID-19 protocols.
Now they’re focused on winning some games as they prepare to meet Wednesday night in New Orleans.
The Pelicans finished a 1-5 road trip last week before the opener of a six-game homestand was postponed Monday. Neither the Pelicans nor the San Antonio Spurs had the necessary eight players available because of contact tracing after a member of each team’s traveling party — believed not to be a player or a coach — tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Pelicans received the necessary negative tests to return to practice Tuesday, and they appear on track to get back on the court against the Wizards.
They have lost eight of their last nine games, mostly due to poor defense and excessive turnovers, including 21 in a 120-110 loss at Minnesota on Saturday.
“The answer to these problems is your best players have to take responsibility to defend and play harder and to take care of the ball,” coach Stan Van Gundy said, referring to forwards Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
Ingram had seven of New Orleans’ turnovers against Minnesota, including four in the fourth quarter.
“My second half was pretty bad,” Ingram said.
Ingram and Williamson are both averaging more than 23 points, but the Pelicans allowed more than 110 points in each game of the road trip.
“If those guys will not make the effort to turn it around, then I think you have to make moves and play other people,” Van Gundy said. “But I have a faith that these guys will turn it around. And they better do it quickly.”
The Wizards were sidelined for nearly two weeks as six games were postponed because COVID protocols left them with fewer than eight players.
They finally returned to the court on Sunday and lost at San Antonio 121-101 before losing at Houston 107-88 on Tuesday.
Washington was still missing six players against the Rockets, and it’s unclear if it will be any less short-handed in New Orleans.
But the Wizards did have Bradley Beal (33 points) and Russell Westbrook (19 points).
John Wall had 24 points to lead five Rockets in double figures as he and Westbrook faced each other for the first time since they were traded for one another last month.
The Wizards’ short bench seemed to be a factor down the stretch for the second consecutive game. Washington was outscored by Houston 32-18 in the fourth after being outscored 36-24 by San Antonio in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t get any stops in the fourth quarter,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.
The Rockets made 12 of 37 3-pointers compared to just 5 of 26 for Washington, which committed 21 turnovers, seven more than Houston.
“We probably made five critical mistakes that led to 3s, and they made all of them,” Brooks said. “We’ve got to make some shots, hit some 3s, or the paint will be crowded and the defense can play us honest.”
–Field Level Media