Washington, DC – It’s been a long time since the New Orleans Pelicans won a game against the Washington Wizards in the nation’s capital.
The last time the franchise had a win at Capital One Arena, on January 1, 2011, it wasn’t even the Pelicans, it was the New Orleans Hornets. Current Pelicans head coach Willie Green, then a player for the Hornets, played 20 minutes that night in the 92-81 victory.
On Monday night, his Pelicans ended a nine-game losing streak on the road in Washington in impressive fashion, setting a new season high in points with a 132-112 victory.
While the end result went the Pelican’s way, things didn’t start out that way. The Wizards started the game on a 10-0 run. Green credited striker Nagy Marshall with getting things going after the Pelicans dug themselves an early hole.
Marshall made a poor pass that turned into a Washington bucket, giving the Wizards an early seven-point lead when Green called a timeout. After the timeout, the Wizards got 3 more pointers before the Pelicans turned things around.
“He just started playing right over and over,” said Green. “I thought Nagy was great. His response, and the rest of the team followed his emotional energy,” he said.
Marshall grew up in the DMV and estimated he had 50 to 60 people at the game on Monday night.
When asked what switch was flipped when the team went down early, Marshall made references to his family and the encouragement Green gave him.
“There’s one thing I can’t do in front of my people,” Marshall said, “and that’s look like trash.” “My people don’t play. They wouldn’t let me hear the end of it. So as soon as he yelled at me and I felt like I might get out, I said let me shut up quick.”
Marshall was pushed into the starting lineup as the Pelicans lost both Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. He finished with 18 points going home.
And while Marshall stepped up, the Pelicans relied on their other co-stars, CJ McCollum and Jonas Valancionas.
McCollum scored a game-high 34 points, while Valanciunas had 27 points and 12 rebounds. It was McCollum’s fourth consecutive 25-point game and consecutive double-double for the Valancionas, both of which tied his season-highs in those categories.
Each of them had at least 20 points in the first half.
While McCollum held New Orleans in the first quarter with 16 points, the Pelicans switched to Valancionas in the second, as he was able to attack the Wizards’ frontcourt players who were battling a poor problem. He had 14 points in the quarter.
“We just tried to prove it exists,” McCollum said. “He’s effective in serving. He gets the reward faster. He gets points at the free-throw line even if it’s not a shot attempt. That makes him a better screen. It makes him defend better and do those things. We just have to realize that as the season goes on.” Even when the guys come back, we have to make sure he eats.”
Williamson missed his fourth straight game while suffering a right hamstring strain, and Ingram has not played since November 25 due to a bruised toe. The Pelicans improved to 8-4 this season when played without Williamson, and are now 6-3 in games missed by both Williamson and Ingram.
With Williamson out, Valanciunas has stepped up his game, averaging 20.0 points and 12.3 rebounds in the past four contests.
“It’s always fun to play well and play winning basketball,” Valancionas said. “There’s no doubt about that. We’re missing our key players, so everyone has to step up and everyone has to do a few extra things to be able to win the game. I think that’s what we all did and it gave us success.”