It's unfortunately no surprise the Indiana Pacers would follow up a key win over the Miami Heat with a resounding thud on the road. The Pacers once again couldn't break 80 points as they lose their fourth straight road game and just 19-17 away from the confines of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It wasn't a pretty night for the Pacers, who continued their struggles on offense, shooting just 35.4% and hitting two three pointers on the night.
As badly as things ended for Indiana, they didn't start much better, with the Pacers turning the ball over six times in the first 4:46 of the game, setting up an 8-4 Washington Wizards advantage, that wouldn't get much better for the Pacers, who never did see the lead at any point in the game. The Pacers kept the game close early thanks entirely to Luis Scola and Paul George, who together scored 16 of Indiana's 21 first quarter points, with Washington leading 24-21 after one.
Al Harrington found enough in the tank in the second quarter to run off a 10-0 run entirely on his own as the Wizards pushed their three point advantage to 13, forcing the Pacers to fight their way back from another double digit deficit that only inflated before they got involved in the game. Bradley Beal would put Washington ahead 41-26 with 5:45 left in the half when Indiana would hold the Wizards off the scoreboard for the next five minutes, using a 12-0 run to close the game within four.
Washington would end the drought on a late shot clock Martell Webster three pointer to give Washington a seven point lead at the break. Indiana spent the entire third quarter treading water as despite their offensive struggles, they couldn't string together enough stops to keep their sputtering excuse for an offense afloat. In the 10 possessions Indiana came away with points in the third quarter, the Wizards responded on eight of those possessions with points of their own.
It didn't help matters much that Washington came away with points on other possessions as well, decisively handling Indiana in the third quarter 30-19 to push their lead to 18 as Webster's second three sent the game to 21 points at 77-56. Down 20 with 9:56 left in the game, Lance Stephenson led a 14-4 Pacers run that pushed the lead to 10, but a John Wall layup, followed by a David West turnover, leading to a big dunk by Marcin Gortat helped squash the comeback attempt as the Wizards came away with the 91-78 victory.
The Pacers offense, which hasn't cracked 90 points in the fourth straight game, which despite "good enough" defense in holding Washington just 91 points and 39% shooting, still resulted in a loss. Indiana's ball movement early in the game helped keep the Pacers well in range despite the maddening amount of turnovers, but poor shooting (they dropped to 27% shooting midway through the second quarter) did it part in wrecking the positive intentions of an offense that totaled just 13 assists on the night.
Stephenson's flurry in the fourth quarter, as part of his 13 point, 14 rebound, and four assist night helped jump up the assist totals, with George Hill owning over half of the Pacers assists early in the fourth quarter with five assists. Stephenson's night was a mess in the first half, missing all nine of his attempts, including five from three point range.
He came on in the second half with 3-4 shooting and eight trips to the line, despite one of his baskets directly allowing an opponent's basket when he stumbled, somewhat unnecessarily, into the photographers, setting up a five on four opportunity for Washington that led to an easy layup. Stephenson and Paul George were a combined 9-35 from the floor, which certainly didn't help Indiana's night, where they shot just 35.4%.
George was a big part of Indiana's success early with 14 of his team high 19 in the first half. Despite a generally successful first half, George's second half was largely spent attacking the basket to no avail, with whistles not coming and shots not falling against Gortat and Washington's front line defense. His first half, with Luis Scola, who looked well in form with 10 points on 5-8 shooting, lifted Indiana's pitiful offense to help put them in position late in the second quarter.
There was plenty of nondescript play to go around from the rest of the team, with David West continuing his current slump with 10 points on 4-10 shooting, George Hill hitting some shots late as part of his eight points and five assists, and Roy Hibbert returning to form with eight points on 3-8 shooting, though coming away with five blocks. Donald Sloan punched in a solid seven points off the bench, but he was a rare highlight in a short work from the bench, with Evan Turner's pitiful 0-4 night in 14 minutes of action.
That Indiana lost a road game against a team with a pulse isn't a real surprise, though it is maddening watch this team continue to flail away offensively in hopes something good might happen and wasting away any positives they might've been able to take from a big win. They followed their comeback against Detroit with a lackluster win over Philadelphia and a pitiful loss in New York and came away from a decisive showing against Chicago with a pair of groan worthy road losses to Memphis and the Bulls.
It puts Indiana at 2-4 in their last six and 3-4 in their last seven when allowing 92 points and less, a total in which the Pacers where a lock to win earlier in the season. Despite their win over Miami giving them a three game lead (four with tiebreakers), they had no chance of even defending that advantage with their showing tonight. The Heat obliterated Detroit and move back to within two games of tying up Indiana, sitting just one behind in the loss column.
Indiana will no doubt be set to offer up another offensive clunker when they travel to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers on Sunday, with an early 3:00 EDT tip on the road. The Cavs had their three game winning streak snapped in Brooklyn tonight, but have only dropped below 93 points in a game once in the past month, putting more pressure on the defensive side of the ball to set up their offense in as favorable a position as possible.