Capital One Arena fell into a hush as Bradley Beal attempted to stand up, only to crumple back to the floor.
Beal stayed there — sitting while not trying to mentally escape from the pain after rolling his left ankle — but after a while, he stood and walked back to the sideline. Beal not only remained in the game but looked spry while ending the third quarter on a shooting spree and setting up the Washington Wizards' 116-106 win Tuesday night over the New Orleans Pelicans.
The momentary fear had washed over the onlookers, and these fleeting feelings of dread defined the fan experience in the Wizards' matchup against New Orleans.
Washington (17-14) lost a 25-point lead as the starters looked stagnant to end the first half. The malaise carried over into the opening minutes of the third quarter when Coach Scott Brooks walked onto the court, holding out his arms after calling a timeout when New Orleans tied the score at 61. Brooks must have been just as frustrated while counting more than six minutes off the game clock between field goals from his team.
And yet — just as Beal appeared to be down and out — the Wizards surprisingly pulled themselves up and pulled away from the Pelicans with a decisive 32-15 third quarter.
Washington survived against a Pelicans team that features two of the best big men in the game, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Although the pair combined for 63 points on 19-for-38 shooting and 26 free throw attempts, the Wizards survived by holding the rest of the Pelicans in check (15 for 42).
"It's tough being undersized," said 6-foot-8 Wizards forward Mike Scott, who often had to battle with one of the all-star centers. "They're seven-footers. It's tough. I just tried to hold my own."
Though Scott believed he and the Wizards were called for "cheap fouls," the whistles did not stop his lights-out shooting exhibition. Scott received ovations every time he checked out of the game as he excelled in 23 minutes off the bench and scored a season-best 24 points on 11-for-15 shooting. For the eighth consecutive game, Scott shot better than 57 percent from the field.
Beal somehow improved after his ankle scare in hitting four of his five three-pointers, and his 26 points led the Wizards' starters, who all scored in double figures.
"Right away is always the most painful," said Beal, who expects to have further evaluations Wednesday, "but I was able to stand up and walk after I just relaxed my mind and calmed down first."
John Wall notched a double-double with 18 points and 10 assists, while 33-year-old Marcin Gortat, in his 113th consecutive start for the longest streak in his career, stood tall for 10 points and 14 rebounds.
For the second straight game, Otto Porter Jr., the team's third-leading scorer, sat out with a bruised right hip/thigh. Early in the game, the Wizards looked sharp despite missing Porter. Wall stayed on the attack for 14 points in the first quarter while still setting up his teammates for six of the team's eight assists. Gortat, a beneficiary of Wall's generosity, made all four of his field goal attempts off assists from his point guard, and as the first unit played most of the first quarter, the Wizards led 36-19.
"To be honest, we made passes like this the past couple games, we just didn't make shots," Wall said. "No matter if a guy misses 20 shots in a row, if it's the right play, I'm willing to make [the pass]. That's how we see it on this team. We make the right plays. We missed some easy shots in the past, but we moved the ball very well."
Given a large cushion to start the second quarter, the Wizards' bench took over with its brand of basketball: more ball movement among all five players and a load of Scott.
Scott got hot from beyond the arc, punished smaller defenders in the post and moved around to find the ball as it zipped through half-court sets. In 12 possessions before the midway point of the second quarter, the Wizards expanded the lead to 22 points.
When Ian Mahinmi scored on an offensive rebound with 4:40 remaining in the half, Washington led 60-37.
Then the starters stepped back onto the floor.
Instead of continuing the momentum, the Wizards, with four starters on the court, clumsily took the baton from the bench. As Washington fumbled through its first four possessions — a missed jumper by Markieff Morris followed by three consecutive turnovers — the Pelicans started their comeback thanks largely to the Wizards' foul-happy defense.
In the final 4:40 of the half, the Pelicans moseyed back into the game on an 18-0 run with 16 made free throws. The Wizards finally snapped the spell when Wall hit 1 of 2 free throws with five seconds remaining.
In the third quarter, the Wizards finally scored again and pulled away after Beal hobbled to his feet.
"I felt like it was pretty bad, but I was able to get up and walk and there wasn't any pain with walking," Beal explained. "So I just laced them up a little tighter. I said, 'If I can run, I'll be all right. If I can jump, that's even better.' "
Beal showed no problem in driving to the rim for a dunk. Then he drained consecutive three-pointers, flashing a smile and talking to his bench. By the end of the quarter, the Wizards had opened a 23-point lead and cruised to the win.