Without Myles Turner (left ankle sprain) and Domantas Sabonis (also, left ankle sprain), the paper thin frontcourt depth of the Indiana Pacers faced a daunting task on the boards against the team currently tied for the league’s top offensive rebounding rate since the break.
Contrary to expectation, however, the Wizards largely beat the team leading the East in points scored off turnovers per 100 possessions at their own game, as they scored 26 points off 15 turnovers and won by seven despite only narrowly outrebounding the Pacers, 38-37.
Only scoring four points when the defense was outnumbered, while getting outscored in the paint and at the line, Indiana’s only lead of the game was extinguished with 8:03 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
A series of timely made threes, including this buzzer beater from Darren Collison, allowed the Pacers to hang around in the early going of the second quarter, even tying things up at 33-33 when Bojan Bogdanovic splashed in his team’s third three of the frame with less than 6:30 to play.
Soon after, Washington closed the half on a 16-5 run, which included one of three double-digit-to-none scoring binges.
From there on out, it seemed like it would be all Wizards, as the home team opened up a 20-point lead midway through the third quarter when Otto Porter knocked down his team’s eighth made three of the game, but a small-ball lineup including Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Lance Stephenson, Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young managed to whittle the deficit down to single digits with 10:45 to play in the game.
Nevertheless, Washington answered with seven straight points to push their advantage back to 16, and didn’t lead by fewer than 10 until an end-of-the-bench unit headlined (again) by Stephenson had an opportunity to cut it to four and make things interesting when Glenn Robinson III missed an open three with less than a minute to play.
Notably, Lance scored a season-high 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting and finished a team-best plus-16 in 28 minutes, despite being away from the comforts of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Making only his second start for the Pacers in two seasons and playing 20-plus minutes in consecutive games for the first time this season, Al Jefferson struggled to repeat the post-play clinic he put on against the Raptors on Thursday. Instead, after connecting on three of his first four shots in the first quarter, he went 1-of-7 the rest of the way.
Victor Oladipo was minus-18 on the night, recording as many turnovers as assists while shooting 1-of-4 from three. Over the last four games, Indiana’s scoring engine has gone a troublesome 12-of-52 outside the restricted area.
With the Wizards (40-30) now holding the regular season tiebreaker (2-1), Indiana (40-30) slid to fifth in the East. With Cleveland (40-29) taking care of business against the Bulls, the Pacers are a half of a game back of the third seed with a slim one game lead over the Sixers for sixth.
There won’t be any rest for the weary, either.
The Pacers are in action every other day until they face the Kings on March 29, and eight of their final 12 games are against teams with winning records.
Next on the docket is a meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers. They play at the league’s fastest pace, so it should prove to be an ample test for the twisted ankles of Indiana’s two 21-year-old centers if they are cleared to play.