The Indiana Pacers moved back into the win column with an all-around team victory over the Washington Wizards, showing no particular hangover from their frustrating loss a night ago to Charlotte. Tonight actually featured a very similar game flow (with more free throws) in how the Pacers managed to keep the game at arm’s length, but timely runs from the Wizards helped push the game back to within striking distance.
The Pacers were rolling heading into the second half, scoring 44 second quarter points, but some defensive lapses put them up only eight. Isaiah Thomas cut the lead to five early in the second, but Aaron Holiday was in position to respond with a three that kicked off a 24-4 Pacers run, putting them up 25 points with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter.
With the game seemingly in tow, the Pacers then appeared to feel the weight of playing on the second half of a back-to-back. Shots suddenly quit falling, and the Wizards would close the quarter on an 11-0 run, drawing to within 14 at the end of the third. The Washington run, for as bad as it was for Indiana, could’ve been a lot worse had the Pacers not stood up defensively during a two and a half minute stretch that had the scoreboard frozen at 94-74.
Davis Bertans opened the fourth with a three to cut the Indiana lead to 11, but Holiday again was there to respond with threes of his own, hitting back to back triples to give Indiana’s offense some much needed life. C.J. Miles was there to respond for the Wizards, summarily bringing the game to within 11 again on a pair of threes himself.
The Wizards would claw their way to a 10-point deficit halfway through the fourth, but Indiana consistently had just enough to hold onto the double figure lead, eventually sinking the dagger on a steady-handed Malcolm Brogdon three with just over two minutes left.
That three was a big deal for the Pacers because it was the lone triple of the night for Brogdon. Brogdon had perhaps his worst game of the season, scoring just 12 points on 3-14 shooting, but was deeply involved in other aspects of the game, not dissimilar to how Victor Oladipo played a year ago after returning from his knee injury.
Brogdon had a game high 13 assists, dishing over a third of Indiana’s 35 assists (coming on 44 field goals). Brogdon found five different Pacers with his passes, including seven to T.J. Warren. The passes opened things up for Warren to score a team high 21 points on the night, continuing his smooth shooting on 9-15 from the floor.
The injury report didn’t look much better heading into the game as Jeremy Lamb was added to the list with a sprained left ankle. Fortunately for the Pacers, they finally received a bit of good news on the injury front as Domantas Sabonis was a late addition to the starting lineup. Sabonis was rusty on his shooting, scoring just 13, but was a huge boost to not only the team’s depth, but in other areas of the game as well.
Sabonis had 17 rebounds and seven assists, picked up a pair of steals and a block, and helped break up Washington’s zone play, teaming well with JaKarr Sampson for easy buckets in the second quarter. Sampson benefited greatly from the addition of Sabonis, scoring 14 points with six rebounds.
Another Pacer that benefited from a starting gig tonight was Aaron Holiday. Getting the nod with Lamb out, Holiday also had his best game of the year, scoring 18 points in 31 minutes. Holiday shot 7-10 with three threes, all coming at big points in the second half to help Indiana stop some otherwise scary Wizards runs.
Not only was tonight about the starters with all five of them reaching double figures, but the Pacers somehow got their best bench effort of the year as well, keeping pace with Washington’s second unit, getting outscored just 46-43. They were led by Doug McDermott, who scored a Pacers career high 19 points, featuring four three pointers and an and-one, also picking up seven rebounds and four assists.
McDermott was a big boost for the Pacers in the second quarter when they were trying to put the Wizards in the rear view, as was T.J. McConnell, who had six in the quarter. He led the second unit with five assists of his own, including the lone buckets for both Justin Holiday and Alize Johnson, the latter logging his first minutes of the season, moving ahead of T.J. Leaf for at least tonight.
Goga Bitadze looked much more comfortable coming off the bench tonight with Sabonis back in action, logging 20 minutes and scoring an effective 13 points. Bitadze’s activity around the basket helped get him to the free throw line eight times, outshooting his own team from a night ago, but also playing a big part in helping Indiana win the free throw battle 21-19 against Washington.
The Pacers found a little extra life in their assist game by getting out in transition, outscoring the Wizards 24-15 in fast break points, also picking up 28 points off of 17 Washington turnovers. Though things got a bit dicey at times in the second half offensively, it was also one of the most well-rounded games the Pacers have played as a team thus far this year.
The win helped move Indiana back to .500 at 4-4, setting them up for another matchup against the Detroit Pistons. The game, at home, will be the third of four in the season series. Pending whatever injury news is bound to befall the Pacers prior to Friday night’s tip, they will need to pick up this win in particular to prevent Detroit from clinching the season series with the Pistons entering at 4-5.