The Wizards came into Friday night's game posting just a 1-12 record versus teams with records equal to or better than .500. Consequently, any attempt to earn their first significant win of the season against the team in the Eastern Conference with, not only the league's best record, but the best home record would prove to be a tall order. Having not won there since April 18, 2007, Bankers Life Fieldhouse continued to be, on Friday, for Washington what Philips Arena, was on Wednesday, and has been to the Pacers since 2006 - a house of horrors.
Both teams started off the contest slowly, but the Pacers could not manage to score through nearly the first three minutes of the game. Collectively, both teams went a horrid 16-of-50 (32%) from the field in the first frame. The score was tied-up at 18 after one, but David West's eight points, on 4-of-4 shooting, was really the only bright spot for the Pacers' offense in a quarter that had Paul George shoot 1-of-7 from the field and Roy Hibbert go 1-of-5. Fortunately for the Pacers, Indiana's poor shooting was matched by Washington's putrid effort with John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Trevor Ariza starting off the game by going a combined 3-of-14 from the field.
After the first quarter, the Wizards offensive struggles continued in what was likely caused by the combination of more subpar shooting and superb Pacers' defense. In the second quarter, the Pacers were able to build-up an eight point lead by outscoring the Wizards 27-19, while limiting them to just eight field goals. The opportunity was there to push the lead to double digits heading into the second half, but Danny Granger picked up an offensive foul (his third personal of the night) on the Pacers' final possession of the second quarter. Notably, both teams looked in dire need of some free throw practice after the second frame in which both squads combined to go just 8-of-24 from the charity stripe.
Although the Wizards had numerous shots clank off the rim and bounce off the side of the backboard, the second half was really all about the Pacers' smashmouth brand of basketball. In the third quarter, the Pacers grabbed 18 rebounds to Washington's 11 and limited the Wizards to a stingy 14 points on just 25% shooting (5-of-20). On the Pacers' side, the team assisted on six of their nine field goals in the quarter and pushed their lead to 18 - the largest of the night. Lance Stephenson had the opportunity to put Indiana up by twenty on what looked to be an and-1, but the referees waived off the shot, and instead whistled Born Ready for an offensive foul. Not liking the call, the Pacers' mercurial guard picked up a technical foul (Note: Frank Vogel picked up a technical in the first quarter arguing what he believed should have been a trip to the free throw line for Paul George). Nevertheless, even with Lance's emotional hijinks, the Pacers still limited the Wizards to just 51 points through three quarters and were able to close the frame up 65-51.
In the fourth, Granger opened the frame with his first points of the night putting the score at 67-51. However, after the Wizards strung together six straight points thus cutting the lead back to ten, it appeared that Washington might be able to hang around. In the midst of this mini-run by Washington, Pacers' reserve point guard, CJ Watson, came up big off the bench immediately hitting an elbow jump shot to build the lead back-up to twelve. Shortly after, Watson nailed a three pushing the Pacers' lead to fifteen. After a Scola lay-in, Randy Wittman was forced to call a timeout in an effort to stop the bleeding. Following the timeout, CJ splashed in another shot resulting in him scoring eleven points in the fourth quarter. From there on out, control of the game belonged solely to the Pacers, which allowed Frank Vogel to pull his starters and insert Donald Sloan, Chris Copeland, Orlando Johnson, and Rasual Butler for the final minutes of the contest.
Impressively, the Pacers held the Wizards to just 66 points and a season-low 32.1% shooting from the field. In keeping with their smashmouth style, Indiana out rebounded Washington by 20, grabbing 61 boards to their 41. Notably, per NBA.com, prior to tonight's match-up, the Wizards were 5-1 when Marcin Gortat recorded 12 or more rebounds. On Friday, Gortat managed to corral only nine boards. The Pacers also pounded the Wizards in terms of points in the paint, once again, coincidentally, by a margin of 20.
Throughout the entire contest, the Pacers did a superb job of getting deflections, challenging every shot, and running shooters off the three point line. Most notably, George Hill held John Wall to only 13 points (six points below his season average) and three assists. After the game, Paul George revealed that Frank Vogel, once again, repeated his practice of showing the team clips of Wall torching the Pacers for 40+ points last season in order to emphasize the need to slow the potential All-Star guard in transition - or, build a wall against Wall.
On a night where he shot just 2-of-14 from the field, Paul George had to find other ways to impact the game besides scoring. In what seems to be becoming a bit of a pattern (with his 28 point performance against the Hawks being an exception), PG struggled to get into any rhythm offensively. Seemingly the only easy basket of the game for George was a dunk off a lob pass midway through the third quarter. Heading into tonight's game, PG had been mired in a bit of shooting slump making only 39 of his last 104 field goals, good for a mark of just 37.5%. Scoring only eight points, George's streak of 35 consecutive games in double figures came to a close on Friday. Nevertheless, Paul did not let his scoring draught get the best of him. Although not in his usual fashion, he still contributed to the team's win by grabbing a season high 14 rebounds coupled with six assists.
David West, another player trying to regain his offensive mojo, came up big for the Pacers. After scoring in single digits in six of his last seven games, West poured in 20 points for the Pacers finishing 9-of-13 from the field. West also grabbed eight of the Pacers 61 total rebounds.
After taking responsibility for the Pacers' poor performance in Atlanta where he made just one of his eight field goal attempts, Roy Hibbert attempted to bounce back against the Wizards. On the night, he scored 12 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and limited Gortat - who scored 17 points in the Pacers first match-up with the Wizards - to just four points. Even so, maybe the best highlight from the Big Dawg's performance against the Wizards was when he splashed in a three from the corner with ease midway through the second quarter.
Lance Stephenson returned to the starting line-up after a one game hiatus due to a knee contusion. Unsurprisingly, employee No. 1 brought his signature energy from the tip of the game. Stephenson finished the game with, yet another, double-double to the tune of 11 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists.
After earning his first start of the season on Wednesday, Danny Granger seemed to really struggle in this particular game scoring only two points while going 1-of-7 from the field. Following a sequence of four games in five nights, fatigue likely played a role in the former All-Star's unproductive outing.
Other than Granger, the Pacers bench provided the team with a much needed offensive punch with Luis Scola and CJ Watson both recording double-digit scoring performances and combining for 26 points. Watson's 16 points, eleven of which were earned in the fourth quarter, marked just the sixth time CJ has crossed the double digit threshold as a Pacer. Ian Mahinmi also got in on the bench scoring action by chipping in with a modest five points (two of his field goals coming from assists by Lance Stephenson).
It may not have been the prettiest win, but, as the saying goes, a "W" is a "W." The Pacers should leave Bankers Life Fieldhouse more than satisfied with their dominant defensive performance (albeit aided by the Wizards horrific shooting), but may need to use the next several days off to figure out a way to jumpstart their offense. Meanwhile, the Wizards will have to wait, at least, until 2015 to get a victory in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Friday night's home win puts the Pacers at 18-1 at home, while pushing the Wizards to 1-13 against teams better than or equal to .500.
The Pacers next game is Tuesday at home against the Sacramento Kings.