WASHINGTON — Whether they have Anthony Davis or not, the Pelicans need to play better defense.
That was the message Saturday night from New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry after the Washington Wizards shot 57 percent from the field and beat the Pelicans 124-114 at Capital One Arena.
The ringleader was Otto Porter, Jr., who had 16 of his 29 points in the first quarter and was 12 of 15 from the field, including three of four from long range.
“He just made shots. That is what he does,” Gentry said of Porter. “He is very capable.”
Point guard John Wall added 22 points and eight assists for Washington, who have dealt with team infighting and are still just 7-12 overall. The Pelicans have now lost three in a row.
“We have to play better than we are playing,” said Gentry, whose team ranks near the bottom of the league in defense. “Our defense is atrocious right now, especially on the road. We just have a lot of work we have to do defensively. We have to become a lot more committed to our defense.
“Offensively I still think we are not moving the ball like we did earlier in the season. I think we are playing somewhat a little bit selfish. We have to find open people.”
Julius Randle had 29 points and 15 rebounds in his fourth start this season for the Pelicans, who also got 24 points from Nikola Mirotic, 19 from E’Twaun Moore and 16 points and nine assists from point guard Jrue Holiday.
But dribble penetration by the Wizards was an issue for the Pelicans, who allowed Washington to score at least 31 points in three of the quarters.
“They did a good job of attacking,” Holiday said. “I think they tried to get the matchup they wanted and from there get the fouls called. I think they got a lot of buckets in transition. Obviously you have those guys driving to the basket.”
New Orleans is now 0-4 when Davis doesn’t play.
“I feel like the season is like a roller coaster. You have your ups and downs. We get the chance to go back home and get some wins,” Holiday said.
The Pelicans (10-10) are not sure if Davis will be able to play at home Monday against the Boston Celtics.
“Obviously he will work out (Sunday) and have some rehab tomorrow,” Gentry said.
Earlier in the road trip, New Orleans lost at Philadelphia and on Friday in New York as Davis had to leave the game in the third quarter against the Knicks with a right hip injury before he returned.
Randle hit a shot in the lane just before the third quarter ended to give New Orleans a lead of 91-90. But the Wizards got hot to start the fourth quarter and led 104-96.
Mirotic made a 3-pointer to trim the margin to 104-102 with 8:04 left.
But Porter, after a pass from Wall, dunked to give the hosts a lead of 113-104 with 5:15 left.
Washington’s Bradley Beal (eight assists) made a layup to push the lead to 115-105 with 3:40 left and the Pelicans couldn’t mount a threat.
New Orleans had 16 turnovers and allowed Washington to have an edge of 70-44 for points in the paint.
“Even if we are missing AD (Davis) we have to play the right way,” Gentry said. “We have been able to win and we have been able to win against good teams. We know it is possible.”