The Washington Wizards (16-17) are inching closer to that elusive .500 mark with their second straight road win, a 102-96 victory against the Pelicans in New Orleans Jan. 8. Washington is now 9-9 on the road, having won six of its last seven road games.
The final game of the team's current road trip is a Jan. 10 contest against the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers (28-7), who have the best record in the NBA. A win against the Pacers, or at least a competitive effort, would serve the Wizards well when they return home to face the Houston Rockets Jan. 11 at Verizon Center.
"A real solid effort top to bottom," Wittman said. "We had multiple guys stepping up at different times. That's good to see when you've got four, five, six, seven guys that are just in sync together."
The win against the Pelicans highlighted a couple of positive trends for the Wizards, including their improved bench play. After starting the season as one of the least productive second units in the NBA, the Wizards' bench has shown improvement during recent weeks.
The change could be attributed to having forward Nene as the stabilizing presence off the bench. Normally a starter, Nene has been coming off the bench since returning from an Achilles injury Dec. 18. Forward Trevor Booker has been starting in his place. Asked on several occasions whether he planned to return to his old lineup now that Nene is healthy, coach Randy Wittman made it clear he didn't want to change the team's dynamic.
Washington forward Trevor Ariza, who played previously in New Orleans, had a team-high 21 points against his former team, while forward Jan Vesely, who struggled to find playing time earlier this season, led the Wizards' second unit with a season-high 12 points.
"That was big for us," Washington point guard John Wall said of Vesely and the rest of the bench players. "Our first group knew that we needed to move the ball and trust in each other. Our second group came in and played big for us today."
In the matchup of point guards, Wall, with 20 points and six assists, got the best of Jrue Holiday, who scored eight points and had three assists. Holiday was named to the NBA All-Star team last season as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. Wall has made no secret of the fact that he'd like to be named to this year's All-Star squad. Currently, Wall is in fourth place in the voting among Eastern Conference guards.