The Washington Wizards’ postseason hopes are slowly fading away.
Washington gamely fought its way back from a double-digit halftime deficit Saturday, but ultimately came up short in a 119-112 home loss to the Indiana Pacers, the team’s fourth straight defeat in a playoff push that looks more and more unlikely as the season winds down.
Seven Pacers scored in double figures, led by forward Thaddeus Young, who had 22 points and four rebounds.
As in the majority of the Wizards’ defeats this season, rebounding was a problem. The Pacers (40-20) outworked Washington on the boards 41-32 with Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis recording a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.
It was a somewhat sloppy affair, as the two teams combined for 45 turnovers. Washington (24-36) was particularly careless early, with 13 of its 22 turnovers coming in the first half.
“They’re a good team. They’re the third seed for a reason,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said of the Pacers. “We gave them a lot of opportunities [with] 25 points off of those turnovers.”
After trailing by as many as 17 in the first half, Washington clawed its way back into the game midway through the fourth quarter with a 15-5 run, cutting the deficit to 99-97 on a Bradley Beal four-point play with about six minutes left.
But Indiana answered with a 5-0 run, then hit their free throws down the stretch to hold off another late rally as Washington got within three in the final minute.
Defensive pressure aided in the comeback as Indiana committed 23 turnovers that led to 30 Wizards points. Although Indiana ranks near the bottom half of the league in free-throw percentage at 75 percent, the team went 10-for-10 in the final 2½ minutes of the fourth quarter.
Beal, who had a game-high 35 points and six assists, said the team watched some film at halftime and noticed their minimum effort on the defensive end.
“They were pretty much comfortable with whatever they wanted to do, [ran] what they wanted to run and they were bullying us in the paint,” he said. “That’s pretty much what it came down to until we wanted to get down and guard for 24 seconds. Unfortunately, it didn’t come until the fourth.”
Washington currently sits in 11th place, 4½ games out of the eighth and final playoff spot held by the Charlotte Hornets (28-31), which defeated Washington on Friday.
Although seven the Wizards’ next 11 games are at home, five are against Eastern Conference foes they’re chasing in the standings. Two of those games next month will be against the Hornets.
“Every team is trying to move up, or better their team to be in a good rhythm to be playing their best basketball heading into the postseason,” Beal said. “We’re going to get everybody’s best shot. Everybody is a pro. We have to [have] respect on the floor, every single possession. It’s that simple.”