Pelicans hope to return to action against Wizards By Reuters

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine produces strong immune response in early trial

© Reuters. NBA: Washington Wizards at Houston Rockets

The Washington Wizards and New Orleans Pelicans have had recent outages due to COVID-19 protocols. Now they are focused on winning a few games as they prepare to face off Wednesday night in New Orleans. The Pelicans wrapped up a 1-5 road trip last week before the first game of a six-game home stay was postponed on Monday. Neither the Pelicans nor the San Antonio Spurs had the necessary eight players available due to contact tracing after a member of each team’s travel group, believed to be not a player or coach, tested positive for the coronavirus. The Pelicans received the negative tests necessary to return to practice Tuesday, and they appear to be on track to return to the court against the Wizards. They have lost eight of their last nine games, mostly due to poor defense and excessive turnovers, including 21 in a 120-110 loss at Minnesota on Saturday. “The answer to these problems is that the best players have to take responsibility to defend and play harder and take care of the ball,” said coach Stan Van Gundy, referring to forwards Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. Ingram had seven of New Orleans’ turnovers against Minnesota, including four in the fourth quarter. “My second half was pretty bad,” Ingram said. Ingram and Williamson are averaging more than 23 points, but the Pelicans allowed more than 110 points in each game on the road trip. “If those guys don’t make the effort to turn it around, then I think you have to make moves and play with other people,” Van Gundy said. “But I have faith that these guys will change things. And they better do it quickly.” The Wizards were out of the game for nearly two weeks as six games were postponed because COVID protocols left them with fewer than eight players. They finally returned to the court on Sunday and lost at San Antonio 121-101 before losing at Houston 107-88 on Tuesday. Washington was still six players short against the Rockets, and it’s unclear if there will be fewer personnel in New Orleans. But the Wizards did have Bradley Beal (33 points) and Russell Westbrook (19 points). John Wall had 24 points to lead five Rockets in double figures as he and Westbrook met for the first time since they traded last month. The Wizards’ short bench appeared to be a factor down the stretch for the second straight game. Washington was outscored by Houston 32-18 in the fourth after being outscored 36-24 by San Antonio in the fourth. “We didn’t make stops in the fourth quarter,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. The Rockets made 12 of 37 3-pointers compared to just 5 of 26 for Washington, which committed 21 turnovers, seven more than Houston. “We probably made five critical mistakes that led to triples, and they made them all,” Brooks said. “We have to make some shots, hit some 3s, or the paint will fill up and the defense can play honestly.” –Field level media

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