Wizards start quickly, hold off Pelicans’ late rally for 102-96 win

For the third consecutive game, the New Orleans Pelicans had a bad quarter, and for the third game in a row, they came away with a loss.

Unlike the other two setbacks on the road, this one came at New Orleans Arena, as the Washington Wizards used a dominating second quarter as a springboard to a 102-96 victory Wednesday night.

The loss was the fourth in five games and ended a four-game home winning streak by the Pelicans (15-19), who looked lethargic in being outrebounded 46-37 and defending Wizards 3-point shots (10-of-21) and drives to the basket.

The second quarter, however, when Washington (16-17) outscored the Pelicans 33-16, was when the game turned. The Wizards then led by 21 after the third before holding off a furious New Orleans comeback in the fourth.

“We just didn’t compete in the second quarter, not to the level they were competing,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “(Forward Jan) Vesely and Nene came into the game, and I thought Vesely just outworked everybody.”

Vesely finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, and Nene had 11 points. That helped support the Wizards’ backcourt of John Wall, who had 20 points and shot 3-of-4 on 3-pointers, and Bradley Beal, who scored 17, making three of six 3-point tries. Small forward Trevor Ariza, who was traded from New Orleans to Washington, had a team-high 21 points.

It was the sixth win in the past seven road games for Washington (16-17), which had won at Charlotte on Tuesday night.

“We’re playing well on the road right now, there’s no question about that,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “I just want this team to understand how this team has played. When we play good defense, we get rebounds.”

Although the Pelicans also were playing the second of back-to-back games, they clearly lacked energy in the first game back after a four-game road trip over eight days in which they endured challenging travel conditions. However, Williams said that’s no excuse.

Power forward Anthony Davis, who had 21 points, joining Eric Gordon with 23, said the loss can’t be blamed on fatigue.

“It’s not so much matching other teams’ energy; we just don’t stick with our game plan,” he said. “We just don’t seem to play hard, and it happens in spurts. That’s when teams take off. We have to figure out how to play hard the whole 48 minutes.”

Washington led 87-66 entering the fourth. However, reserve guard Brian Roberts sank two 3-pointers in leading a comeback in which the Pelicans came to 91-80 with 3:56 left. Then, with 2:38 showing, ex-New Orleans player Trevor Ariza hit a 3-pointer from the right corner, and Washington’s lead was 96-89.

After running past the Pelicans in the second quarter, the Wizards torched them from outside in the third.

Beal sank a two-point jump shot and three 3-pointers in a two-minute, 31-second span, as Washington opened a 75-54 lead by the 5:57 mark of the third.

Having stayed close to the Pelicans in the first quarter on the strength of 3-of-5 3-point shooting, Washington began an assault on the lane in the second quarter and began pulling away, taking a 61-44 halftime lead. The points allowed tied a Pelicans season-high for a half.

Fueled by New Orleans turnovers, the Wizards cranked up the fast break and scored 20 points in the lane in the quarter. New Orleans had six turnovers but gave the ball away on five of its first seven possessions. Forward Martell Webster sank two big 3-pointers in a 12-0 run that gave the Wizards took a 40-28 lead with 7:56 showing.

Nene slender Vesely keyed the damage done in the lane. Vesely scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and grabbed six rebounds, including two put-backs. Nene scored eight points, shooting 3-of-3.

The Pelicans came to 40-34 at 5:45 of the second, as Davis sank a free-throw-line jump shot, and Jrue Holiday followed with two jumpers.

From there, the Wizards simply began driving the lane from their half-court set, with Wall and Ariza doing much of the damage.

Vesely sank a hook with 4:42 showing, and Washington led 43-34. He later dunked on the break at 3:04, pushing the margin to 49-34.