NEW ORLEANS — Otto Porter Jr. was warming up on the Smoothie King Center floor when his coach revealed the good news for the Washington Wizards.
Scott Brooks noted that Porter’s hip soreness had eased after several days of rest and that Porter had looked fine while at the morning shoot-around. Thus, he would play Friday night against the New Orleans Pelicans.
“And that’s good for us,” Brooks said.
Porter not only played in Washington’s 116-97 win, he was the best player on the court. He made four of his first five shots, then sparked a 21-4 run in the second quarter, validating his coach’s words. He finished with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds.
Washington improved to 38-28 and maintained a tie with the Indiana Pacers for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington trailed once but easily handled the injury-ridden Pelicans, who lost for the first time in 11 games as all-star Anthony Davis sat out with a left ankle sprain.
The Wizards escaped injury, although Porter dodged a potential mishap.
Midway through the third quarter, with the Wizards ahead by 18, Porter hit the hardwood while playing defense. He rose slowly, hobbled for a few steps before jogging to the Wizards’ offensive end. Although Brooks looked down the bench at backup small forward Kelly Oubre Jr., Porter remained in the game — unlike the last time he had taken a spill.
On Tuesday night, Porter left the game in the third quarter after a midair collision triggered hip pain. Fortunately for the Wizards, the team had two days off between games, which allowed Porter to receive treatment.
“One thing about Otto, he does whatever it takes,” Brooks said. “It’s good to have him back. He’s a big part and he’s playing some of the best basketball of his career.”
Porter has scored in double figures for 19 straight games — smashing his previous record of 14 from last season. And while the Wizards have been up and down since the all-star break, winning five of nine games, Porter has consistently stepped up, averaging 19 points, seven rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting nearly 57 percent from the floor as well as the three-point arc .
In New Orleans, Porter was aggressive from the start, making a 19-footer from the corner open the game. In the second quarter, as Washington recovered from a 27-26 deficit, Porter handled the ball and flashed around a Mike Scott screen, beating his defender and forcing Pelicans guard Darius Miller to foul from behind. This move showed not only Porter’s growing assertiveness, but also, on a night when Bradley Beal (16 points) and Markieff Morris (17) were scoring, he would not be an overlooked option.
On the other sideline, New Orleans (38-27) had few options to make up for the loss of Davis. Nikola Mirotic started in Davis’s place and scored just nine points on 3 of 11 shooting. Only one Pelicans starter finished in double figures — point guard Rajon Rondo with 11 — and the team did not come close to hitting the 110-point mark, which it did each time during its 10-game winning streak.