Building a 17-point lead out of the gate ended up being just the reserve the Indiana Pacers needed in holding off the Washington Wizards. In some sense, it should have never been a game; Indiana came out firing and had the makings of a big win, but the benches for both team changed the flow of the game in a big way. George Hill was active, but sat out tonight, and the lack of depth was blatantly apparent when Ben Hansbrough struggled bringing the ball up the floor, as he and the bench combined for five turnovers as the Wizards came back within five.
The struggles of the bench have been well documented this year, but it continues to astound and show how little depth this team has when there's no one to run the offense. Can that be D.J. Augustin? In his second start of the year, Augustin was once again not only effective, but played well again, scoring 18 points with six assists. It seems the starting point guard spot in the event of a George Hill injury is in good hands, but unfortunately, the backup role isn't in that case, or possibly any case if Augustin can't show the ability to adjust as a bench player.
Some of it could be a talent issue. it's probably a lot easier to make a positive impact as a point guard when you're playing with guys like Paul George and David West than it is with Tyler Hansbrough and Gerald Green. That, with Augustin's own issues coming off the bench, can add up, maybe not to the level Augustin has played most of the season, but it's clearly a night and day issue when he's come off the bench vs. the last two games when he's started. Whatever the issue, it's something Augustin has to figure out.
Paul George led the way for the Pacers with 29 points and 14 rebounds, getting to the line eight times. George was on fire out of the gate, scoring 10 points in the opening quarter as part of a 17-point first half. Early in the third quarter, when the Wizards were able to cut the lead to two, George was rarely looked at offensively, getting only one crack at the basket in the first seven minutes. The possession he used to spark a 12-point second half was one he was determined to get a look, ending up at the line for a pair of points.
Roy Hibbert had 13 points in a foul shortened night, shooting 6-11 from the floor. While the big fella was mostly effective in areas that weren't fouls, his extra minutes were used wisely with a solid night from Ian Mahinmi. Mahinmi was the only truly effective player off of the bench, scoring nine of their 15 points, 11 of their 17 rebounds, putting him a point shy of his first double-double of the year.
Lance Stephenson had a big start to the game, going up for a nice alley oop from Augustin and getting a pair of steals, but ended up fairly ineffective as the game went on, missing some easy shots (some of those he made more difficult) and coming back down a little bit. David West had a poor shooting night, but managed to sink a late bucket in the fourth to keep Indiana out of reach.
The Pacers won despite shooting under 38% and improved to 7-7 in games under 90 points. While the game was never really in doubt late, the Pacers certainly didn't take the easy way out in closing out the Wizards with Bradley Beal knocking six points off the 10-point lead with eight points late. The Pacers have tomorrow night off before traveling to Boston to face the Celtics on Friday at 8:00 p.m. ET.