Gafford double-double leads Wizards past Pelicans 113-103
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Daniel Gafford had a season-high 21 points to go with 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, and the Washington Wizards beat the reeling New Orleans Pelicans 113-103 on Saturday night for their fifth straight victory.
“No matter what, I just kept playing," said Gafford, whose production helped mitigate the absence of 7-foot-3 star Kristaps Porzingis, who missed his third straight game with an ankle injury. "We’ve got KP out. So, really just stepping up was the main thing on my mind … just locking in and being able to play physical throughout the full game.”
Bradley Beal scored nine of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and Deni Avdija scored 13 for Washington, which also won its fourth straight on the road while sending New Orleans to its seventh straight loss overall.
“The beauty of it is we’re constantly building on the game before,” Beal said of the winning streak. "We’re not getting tired of doing the right things.”
Washington led most of the game and by as many as 16 points when Kendrick Nunn's driving layup made it 96-80 with 8:16 to go.
The Pelicans briefly seized momentum with a 10-0 run that included Brandon Ingram's fadeaway and Herb Jones' breakaway dunk.
It looked as if New Orleans was going to have a chance to pull within three when officials called a foul on Washington during Jose Alvarado's drive to the hoop. But the Wizards challenged the call and it was overturned. Moments later, Beal hit a pullup as he was fouled by Ingram and completed the three-point play to make it 100-92.
The Pelicans did not threaten again.
“Fourth quarter, coach just told me to be aggressive and attack and that’s what I did,” Beal said.
Corey Kispert and Nunn each scored 12 for Washington, while Kyle Kuzma added 10 points and won teammates' praise for his defensive on Ingram, who scored 22 points but made just 8 of 22 shots.
CJ McCollum scored 24 points for the Pelicans, whose string of losses has “kind of jolted us in a negative way,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said.
“We’ll get back to playing our style and playing with joy,” Green said. "Right now, like I told our team, nobody’s going to rescue you. We have to be a part of our own rescue.”
New Orleans played most of the game without top rebounder Jonas Valanciunas. He was ejected after a his elbow struck Taj Gibson in the head as the Pelicans center made a move toward the basket. Valanciunas indicated that contact was inadvertent, but officials ruled it a Flagrant-2 foul after video review.
Valanciunas laughed incredulously as he walked to the locker room.
Green said Valanciunas made one of his normal spin moves to the hoop, but that “it just looked like Taj Gibson had got so low” that the defender's head was in the path of Valanciunas' elbow.
Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said it would not be like Gibson to go down as he did “unless there's significant contact there.”
“He felt it was a dirty play,” Unseld added.
Gafford had 14 of his points in the first half, highlighted by his soaring alley-oop jam of Beal's lob, which the center caught with one hand high above his head and slammed down hard in one motion.
While Beal acknowledged his lob that set up Gafford’s big alley-oop dunk was on the high side, he added, “Gaff can go touch the top of the backboard. So, anywhere you can throw it in the vicinity, he can go get it.”
Added Gafford: “I tell them you can throw it to the moon, I’m going to bring it back down. I’m always prepared for anything around the rim.”
Delon Wright's driving finger roll as time expired made it 59-50 at halftime.
Wizards: Monte Morris returned from a sore right hamstring that sidelined him in Houston on Wednesday and scored 10 points. … Gibson grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked a shot to go with nine points. ... Outrebounded New Orleans 53-42. ... Converted 13 offensive rebounds into 25 second-chance points.
Pelicans: Trey Murphy III, who scored 10 points, missed a two-handed alley-oop dunk attempt in transition early in the fourth quarter. ... Ingram has reached 20 points in nine of the 17 games he's played in this season. ... All-Star power forward Zion Williamson missed his 13th straight game with a right hamstring injury.
Wizards: At San Antonio on Monday.
Pelicans: At Milwaukee on Sunday.
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