The Indiana Pacers came into D.C. Wednesday still reeling from last week’s news of a season-ending injury to their All-Star guard. The Washington Wizards can relate.
Washington, back home after a rough road loss Tuesday to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers, went on two 8-0 runs to begin the third and fourth quarters in a rout of the Pacers, 107-89.
The Wizards (22-29) have won five of their past seven home games. The team is now 7-2 in the back half of back-to-back games on the season, compared to only 1-8 in the first game.
“I don’t know how to explain that,” said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, who had a game-high 25 points along with six rebounds and six assists. “It’s good that we’re able to win on the second night, but we have to win on the first night.”
Washington’s season has been similarly topsy-turvy. It’s lost to the Cavaliers (11-41) twice, but has defeated the Pacers (32-18) and two of the Western Conference’s top five teams in the Oklahoma City Thunder (32-18) and Houston Rockets (29-21).
“Our guys have shown resolve,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. “That’s how we have to operate [and] just play hard every night.”
Veteran forward Jeff Green chipped in with 23 points off the bench for Washington. Thaddeus Young led Indiana in scoring with 13 points.
Wizards guard Jordan McRae, who scored 12 points in a season-high 26 minutes, credited his time as a two-way player on Washington’s G League affiliate, Capital City Go-Go, with keeping him in game shape.
“Some days have been tough, not knowing where you will be the next day,” said McRae, who is the G League’s leading scorer at nearly 30 points per game. “At the end of the day, this is a game we all know and love, so I’m up for it.”
Indiana, among the Eastern Conference’s upper tier after last year’s surprising postseason bid, has went into a bit of a tailspin since All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, who leads the team in scoring and steals, suffered a season-ending right knee injury on Jan. 23. The team has lost three straight games since Oladipo went down, its longest skid of the season.
“Victor is not coming back,” said Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said after Wednesday’s loss. “We’ve got to move past that and not look at what we don’t have, [but] focus on what we do have.”
Washington, meanwhile, has kept afloat since losing their own star guard, John Wall, who elected to have season-ending surgery on his left heel late last month. The team is 9-7 so far in his absence, staying within striking distance of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference despite its sub-.500 record.
Wednesday’s game was never truly in doubt. Washington led by as many as 25 midway through the third quarter, and the Pacers got no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Washington, one of the league’s worst rebounding teams, edged Indiana on the boards, 41-39. The Wizards also held the league’s fifth-best shooting squad to 39 percent from the field.