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Pelicans have opportunity to get over hump against Wizards

Winning the first quarter could be key

Washington Wizards v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans will look to snap their 3-game road losing streak tonight in Washington D.C. against the Wizards.

While they haven’t fared too well away from the Smoothie King Center at 7-11, the Pelicans have gotten positive results against opponents with records below .500 on the road at the time of their matchups. They’re 5-2 against such teams, which includes that heartache overtime loss to the Lakers early in the season.

Pouring over the first 40 games, it has proven undeniably important for the Pelicans to get off to good starts. They’re 15-5 when leading after the first frame, 8-10 when trailing. This disparity can also be evidenced on the road: 1-7 if trailing, 5-4 if leading.

The Wizards currently sit two games out of the play-in picture. They’ve gone 7-16 since Nov. 23. They’ll be without Bradley Beal, who is out with a left hamstring strain.

On the surface, it feels like a good opportunity for the Pelicans to get back in the win column despite the continued unavailability of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. CJ McCollum will be back in the lineup after getting a day of rest against the Mavericks and Larry Nance Jr. is probable to suit up as well.

Having said all that, the Pelicans must play well in order to emerge with the victory. The Wizards are 10-7 at home. More important to note for our purposes, they’re 4-2 inside Capital One Arena without Beal.

Washington features additional weapons. Kristaps Porzingis (21.9 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.8 threes, 1.6 blocks) and Kyle Kuzma (21.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.4 threes) are in the midst of compiling nice seasons.

The depth on the Wizards has also been trending upwards since the start of the New Year. Daniel Gafford (14.3 points, 8.3 rebounds), Rui Hachimura (14.3 points, 2.0 threes), Corey Kispert (10.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 55.6 3PT%), Deni Avdija (9.0 points, 6.3 rebounds) and Monte Morris (8.3 points, 4.3 assists) have made positive impacts since Jan. 1.

The Pelicans have lost four of their last five, but they have been within striking distance in each contest. Once also can’t overlook that all these losses have come against very good teams. So it should be more feasible to get over the hump against the Wizards.

Let’s Geaux!

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (24-16) at Washington Wizards (17-23)

When: January 9, 2023, 6:00 p.m. CT

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.