Five Washington Wizards scored in double figures, led by Bradley Beal’s 19, as they defeated the Indiana Pacers 107-102 at home Saturday, avenging a loss in D.C. less than two weeks ago.
Wizards center Marcin Gortat played one of his best games of the season with 18 points and eight rebounds on 6-for-8 shooting in 24 minutes.
“I think we were a little bit quicker than they were,” Gortat said. “We had a pretty good start to the game and we came out ready to play [and] focused. We’re going to be a good team, but it has to be consistent.”
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said Gortat could’ve played more, but the Pacers went to a small lineup midway through the fourth quarter as the Wizards’ lead stretched to 18.
The possible first-round playoff opponents are currently fourth and fifth in the Eastern Conference standings with identical 40-30 records, but the Wizards hold the tiebreaker upon winning the season series 2-1.
“It was a good win for us knowing … we would have the tiebreaker with the Pacers,” Brooks said.
Although Brooks said the team did well offensively, citing Washington’s 29 assists, he lamented some defensive lapses kept the Pacers within striking distance.
The Pacers made a late push with a 6-0 run to trim the deficit to 105-98, but Beal made two free throws with 45 seconds to help seal the game.
DeMatha High School product Victor Oladipo, who torched Washington for 33 points and seven rebounds in the March 4 win, was held to 18 points and four rebounds Saturday.
Lance Stephenson came off the bench to lead the Pacers with a season-high 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
Indiana starting center Myles Turner, who averages nearly 14 points and seven rebounds per contest, missed the game with a sprained ankle. Veteran center Al Jefferson got his first start of the season and notched 10 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes.
Washington, which has 12 games left in the regular season, will head to San Antonio to face the Spurs on Wednesday before beginning a three-game home stand Friday against the Denver Nuggets, during which franchise legend Phil Chenier will have his jersey retired.
The Wizards and Pacers both trail the Cleveland Cavaliers by a half-game in the conference standings. Indiana doesn’t face the Cavaliers again this season, but Washington plays in Cleveland on April 5 with the Cavaliers up 2-1 in the head-to-head matchup.
If the current standings play out to season’s end, the Wizards would host the Pacers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“I like how we match up against Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of,” Beal said. “It doesn’t matter who we play. Every team is going to be tough. Nobody is going to be easy to beat.”
Pacers head coach Nate McMillan downplayed the postseason implications of Saturday’s loss.
“Every game is big,” he said. “[Washington] did what they needed to do tonight.”