The Indiana Pacers picked up a win’s a win kind of win tonight, topping the Washington Wizards in the bubble for their second straight victory. It was quite the mixed performance for the Pacers, who had excellent stretches to go alongside real struggles on both ends of the floor.
With the return of Malcolm Brogdon coinciding with Victor Oladipo resting, the Pacers really struggled to find offense in the first quarter. They had maybe their best start of the restart with a quick 7-2 strike, but as would be a bit of a trend throughout the night, the Wizards played timely basketball, doing just enough to stay alive no matter the circumstances.
Indiana’s offense stagnated after the start, allowing the Wizards to take the lead halfway through the quarter. After missing his first couple of looks, T.J. Warren scored five straight to put Indiana back up by four, but Tony Brown Jr. responded with a three, eventually assisting to Moritz Wagner to put Washington on top 21-20 to end the quarter.
The second unit was unable to light a spark, eventually allowing the Wizards to expand their least to seven on four straight points from Thomas Bryant. Once the starters returned, however, Indiana was able to flip the game in their favor, running off 11 straight as part of a 20-2 run that put them ahead by double figures.
Unfortunately, as seemed to be the theme for the game, Bryant responded with a three, helping to keep Washington within single digits as the half closed, Pacers leading by nine. Indiana failed to build upon that lead in the third, climbing to within two on Bryant’s second three at 68-66.
From there, Warren sparked the Pacers on both ends, scoring six straight as part of a 22-2 run to end the quarter, putting them comfortably ahead 90-68 heading into the fourth. Once again, however, they left the door open for the Wizards, who scored the first 10 of the fourth, chipping away throughout the quarter to climb within seven with a minute remaining.
The Pacers really struggled offensively in the fourth, but came through with just enough to keep the Wizards from ever truly threatening the lead. By the time the buzzer sounded, the Pacers held on for a 111-100 victory, surrendering 32 points to Washington in the fourth.
The final numbers don’t feel as if they tell the whole story. Indiana outscored the Wizards 62-44 in the paint, but it felt as if Washington had a free line to the basket all night, despite getting stuffed 11 times. Despite healthy advantages in points off turnovers and at the line, it rarely felt as if the Pacers were in control of the game.
Part of that could’ve had to do with the bench’s relative struggles. For as impressive as T.J. McConnell was against Philadelphia, he was a larger nonfactor tonight. He did dish four assists, but had just four points and a pair of turnovers. JaKarr Sampson led the way with eight points, however, playing well despite a cheap flagrant foul against Wagner early.
That left the starters to carry the bulk of the scoring load. Four of the five starters reached double figures, led by another big night from Warren. Warren finished with a stat sheet busting 34 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, four blocks, and three steals. While he struggle early in finding his shot, once he did, he was off to the races.
Warren finished the night 14-26 from the floor, including 16 points in the third quarter as the Pacers built their 22 point advantage. It didn’t hurt that he was fully able to capitalize on his steals, scoring six off those three turnovers. He also scored six more from his four offensive rebounds. Warren’s 11 rebounds were not only a season best, but were a necessity to help the Pacers keep pace on the glass. They tied the Wizards in that area, competing well with Bryant’s own double double.
Aaron Holiday had another impressive showing, scoring 17 points on 7-12 shooting. His finishing abilities tonight were superb, hopefully trending towards what he showed off to start the scrimmages.
It was much more of a mixed bag defensively for Holiday however. While he had an impressive defensive stop against Rui Hachimura early, he was less effective against fellow guards like Shabazz Napier and Ish Smith, allowing easy looks inside for the Washington backcourt.
Brogdon returned with a 20 point, seven rebound, and six assist outing, sticking a pair of threes at opportune times, but did struggle as a whole offensively, shooting just 6-18. He had a team high three turnovers as well, struggling at times to make plays against the active Washington defense.
Myles Turner got in a full night after his foul troubles against Philadelphia, scoring 17 with nine rebounds. Turner was an efficient 7-13 from the floor, but didn’t take full advantage of his looks from three, going 2-3. There were a fair number of quick pop opportunities, but he was hesitant to pull the trigger on most of them.
Indiana still found success on the plays he didn’t shoot, so it’s not as if the offense completely stagnated with him passing, but as a team, they were just 7-26, which is part of why Washington was constantly able to stay alive in this one, especially as Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott combined for 0-6 from three.
The win was still a good one for the Pacers. They edge a half a game up on Philly while also climbing to within a game of Miami for fourth with a pair of games remaining against the Heat. While there won’t be any real home court advantage for Indiana in fourth, it would allow them extra room to avoid a first round matchup with Boston.
The Pacers will be in action tomorrow for a back-to-back, facing the Orlando Magic at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.