Russell Westbrook, Wizards make playoff push vs. Pelicans

NBA

Russell Westbrook is leading the way as the Washington Wizards are making a push to join the Eastern Conference play-in scenario for the postseason.

Westbrook had his sixth consecutive triple-double and 24th of the season when he finished with 25 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists in the Wizards’ 123-111 victory at Sacramento on Wednesday.

“He’s elite at attacking,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s extraordinary, and he brings it every night. The people that criticize him, the analytics guys, they obviously don’t play the game or understand the game. I love how he plays.”

Westbrook, who joined the Wizards in a trade for John Wall before the season, helped Washington finish 4-2 on its longest road trip of the season. The Wizards pulled within one game of the 10th spot in the East, and they will host New Orleans on Friday night to begin a four-game homestand.

Bradley Beal scored 31 points against the Kings for his 26th 30-point game of the season, and Davis Bertans added 16 points and Deni Avdija 11.

“We just know each other better,” Avdija said. “Our chemistry is better from the beginning of the season. Everybody knows his role. We’re in a good position right now.”

Washington took the lead for good by scoring 42 points in the first quarter and overcame 24 turnovers.

“It was a tough travel trip,” Brooks said. “Started off in Florida and ended up in California with a few other states in between. I thought we played pretty solid.”

The Wizards’ victory enabled New Orleans to maintain a three-game lead over the Kings for the 11th spot in the Western Conference, but the Pelicans are two games behind San Antonio and Golden State, who are tied for ninth place, after a 116-106 home loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

The Knicks made 17-of-33 3-pointers and the Pelicans only 6-of-28.

“Our three-point defense wasn’t good enough, and our three-point offense wasn’t good enough,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We’ve got guys out (injured) who can shoot the ball. We’re playing guys whose shooting isn’t their major forte. You’ve got to deal with that.”

Lonzo Ball, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Josh Hart, three of the Pelicans’ best 3-point shooters, are injured, and Alexander-Walker and Hart won’t be available against the Wizards.

New Orleans is struggling through its worst 3-point-shooting stretch of the season, having made just 29 from beyond the arc in the past five games combined.

“If you go back to the last five or six games, we’ve been getting outscored 24 or 25 points per game on average from the 3-point line,” Van Gundy said. “That’s really hard.

“The other thing is that when you’re not making threes, then they’re doing things like at the end where they’d just come and double both Zion (Williamson) and Brandon (Ingram) wherever they were, not worrying about anything else. It’s difficult.”

On Jan. 27 against the Wizards, Ingram made seven 3-pointers, and he and Williamson scored 32 points each as the Pelicans overcame Beal’s 47 points in New Orleans’ 124-106 victory.

–Field Level Media

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