A potential blowout turned into a nail-biter late between the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards, but the Pacers managed to get just enough big plays late to hold off the surging Wizards. Indiana blew things wide open early in the third, but that success proved to be something of an anomaly in a game that was tight throughout the first half.
Washington led after one, outscoring Indiana 33-29. Early misses at the free throw line, coupled with hot shooting from the Wizards (including five threes) dissolved any hope for a lead for the Pacers despite a quick 7-0 start. If Indiana played as if they hoped water would find its level for Washington, it didn’t begin to pay dividends until the final three minutes of the third.
The Wizards led by a point after a back-and-forth quarter when Bojan Bogdanovic caught fire offensively and Myles Turner caught fire defensively, finishing the half on a 10-0 run, including eight points from Bogdanovic and a pair (originally three) blocks from Turner. The momentum carried over into the third quarter, the Pacers outscoring Washington 28-12 to push their lead to 25 points.
In the run, the Pacers got rolling. Tyreke Evans scored six to kickstart to the run, Thaddeus Young and Bogdanovic had had five each while Turner scored 11. All the while, Darren Collison had five assists. The good times were meant to last forever! At least until the bottom fell out and the Pacers missed their next 10 shots.
Water did find its level for the Pacers, but while the shots weren’t falling, Washington brought an energy that Indiana couldn’t compete with. This led to four turnovers to end the third and nine more in the fourth quarter, giving the Wizards every chance to climb back in the game. They cut the lead to five, then to four.
The Pacers appeared to settle down when they pushed the lead back up to nine, but a crucial five point swing threw Washington right back in the mix, cutting the lead to a single point after a pair of Bradly Beal free throws. A turnover to follow set up an opportunity for the Wizards to take their first lead of the second half, but Turner made sure to stop Kelly Oubre at the rim, sending Indiana the other way for a big time three.
The Wizards trimmed the lead to two off of another Indiana turnover, but Bogdanovic came the other way with a big ol’ lefty jam to kick start a big 4-0 run.
With a minute to go, the Wizards had again trimmed the lead to four and the Pacers were forced to come up with a big stop after a bad turnover. They missed two shots going the other way, but came up with offensive rebounds on each one, setting up Young for a key put back. Evans would seal the win by stealing the inbounds, giving the Bankers Life Fieldhouse a big sigh of relief.
Indiana was more than willing to keep the Wizards alive and well in this one with their turnovers. They had 24 on the game, leading to 18 Washington points. Indiana shot 12 percentage points better than the Wizards, but the extra shots helped them make up that difference, tying the Pacers in both free throws and three pointers made.
The Pacers managed to pull through on the strength of their individual performances. They had six double figure scorers, including all five starters. Turner led the way for Indiana with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks, shooting 11-16 from the floor and hitting mulitple threes in a game for the second time this season.
Turner was not only in a zone shooting the ball, but he was a nightmare for the Wizards on the defensive end. Turner finished with five blocks, but had at least one taken away. Whatever the total, Turner’s impact was far greater. The success Indiana had to close the first half was in large part to the ability to get stops due to Washington’s bullheaded decision to continue attacking the paint. Suffice to say, it wasn’t working out too well for them.
Bogdanovic meanwhile had 22 points. Turner called it a “quiet 20,” and that fits perfectly. The rest of the starters had very loud games, but Bogdanovic simply went about things, scoring in bunches. Since Victor Oladipo has been out, Bogdanovic has made up a bulk of that scoring by averaging 19.6 per game. Only three of those have been under 50% shooting.
Evans had one of his best games of the year, scoring 18 points on 7-13 shooting. Evans looked his most active, getting a pair of steals, including the game sealing inbounds steal, but also shot some of his best confidence. There were some negatives, but he wasn’t alone; seven Pacers had three turnovers.
Collison set out to set up his teammates all night, dishing 17 assists, the third highest of his career and becoming just the second Pacer to do so in the last 15 years along with Jeff Teague. Most impressive was Collison’s ball control during much of the game. He had no turnovers for 42 minutes, marring his perfect assist to turnover ratio with three costly miscues in the final six minutes. The Wizards would score off each one.
Collison would look to score more in the fourth, stepping off the bench with a big jumper to break Indiana’s drought, the three to push Indiana ahead by four with four to go, and the game-icing free throws, scoring seven of his ten in the quarter. He also brought the hustle plays, getting on the floor to save a loose ball late.
Young joined Turner and Collison with a double double, finishing with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Young not only made his usual contributions, but brought back the three point shot as well, hitting two of his three attempts as Indiana finished an impressive 10-20 from the line.
The starters had to step up tonight in place of the bench, who finished with just 19 points total. Neither Doug McDermott or Cory Joseph had much going, shooting 1-8 combined. Domantas Sabonis reached double figures with 11 points, impressive considering his was limited to 18 minutes due to foul trouble. Together, the three combined for nine turnovers. Aaron Holiday had just a single turnover, scoring five, all early in the second as the Pacers looked to swing the game back in their favor after falling behind at the end of the first.
The win gives Indiana their fourth straight, moving them to 17-10 on the year. Whether or not Oladipo’s words at the Migos show can be seen as truly encouraging, there’s no doubt the Pacers have really come together as a team without him on the court, though of course, he’s still been a huge part of the team on the bench.
Indiana has done a great job of finding ways to win in this winning streak, but things will be getting a lot tougher as they wrap up this three game home stand against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. The Bucks won tonight without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sat out with a sore neck.