The Washington Wizards have been one of the most surprising teams in the NBA so far.
The New Orleans Pelicans have been one of the most disappointing teams.
First-year Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. is trying to keep his team’s fast start in perspective as it takes a four-game winning streak into its home game against the Pelicans on Monday night.
“I’d rather be where we are than not,” Unseld said. “You just have to fight that temptation to get complacent. It hasn’t come easy, and I give our guys credit because we’ve found ways on nights to eke out a win. But we can’t sit here and say, ‘We’re good.'”
The Wizards actually were very good during a 20-0 first-half run that put them in command during a 104-92 victory at Orlando on Saturday.
Washington, which started 3-9 a year ago, is 9-3 for the first time since the 2014-15 season. The Wizards have held each opponent during their winning streak to less than 95 points.
Washington’s defense was especially important with the absence of leading scorer Bradley Beal, who missed Saturday’s game after the death of his grandmother earlier in the week. Unseld said he hopes to have Beal back “shortly.”
The Wizards’ Spencer Dinwiddie scored 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field and had a season-high 11 rebounds.
“Obviously when Brad’s out, I’m pushing the go button a little bit earlier, a little bit more often,” Dinwiddie said. “It’s about not being sped up. I feel like I can get a shot anytime; that’s not a question. It’s just about the (makeup) of our team. It’s a more complicated game than just like who shoots when.”
For just the second time this season, New Orleans has an opportunity to win consecutive games. The Pelicans ended a nine-game losing streak by defeating Memphis 112-101 on Saturday night for their first home victory of the season.
Leading scorer Brandon Ingram returned from a nine-game absence due to a hip contusion and scored 19 points. He was one of five New Orleans scorers to have at least 15 points.
“Guys like Brandon elevate everyone in the sense that guys don’t have to do more than what they’re used to doing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “So everybody kind of was in their normal positions, and they just played together. They played hard. They played together, (had) great game-plan discipline, and we won. So it feels good to say that.”
Green said the Pelicans’ offensive execution was much better with Ingram in the lineup.
“It’s how we want to play,” Green said. “We want to be a team that has a point-five mentality. You catch it, you drive it, you shoot it, you pass it and (you) make quick decisions.
“I thought our guys did that for the most part, and we have to continue to do it together. That’s who we’re going to be as a team. That’s what we’ve been building toward, and I think they’re just starting to see it. Having results like (this) makes them believe in it more.”
–Field Level Media