Tonight, the Indiana Pacers played closer to the team they expected themselves to be, holding the Washington Wizards at arm’s length all night to snap their four game skid and hopefully find something more sustainable in this win. The Pacers not only had better overall effort than they did in their loss to Miami, but they were also a bit more focused in the strategic sense, opening up Domantas Sabonis for one of his biggest nights of the year.
After a shaky start offensively, the Pacers came to life in the latter stages of the first quarter, using an 8-0 run to go up by seven, and for good on back-to-back buckets from Jeremy Lamb and three points (and an assist) from Malcolm Brogdon. Oshae Brissett capped off the quarter with back-to-back shots of his own, pushing Indiana’s lead to 10 heading into the second quarter.
The Pacers managed to keep their lead at or around that 10-point mark for the rest of the game, getting consistent offensive contributions across the board as the Wizards kept piling on the points. That lead would shrink to six by the end of it, with Aaron Holiday picking off a pair of passes in the final minute to make it a six-point game in the record books.
Sabonis led the way for the Pacers with 30 points, three points shy of his season high from the opening game of the season. It was a huge night for the big man, who has seen his scoring numbers drop by about four points over the last 10 games, raising questions on how he has been used as the losses have piled up.
Tonight was a much more familiar type of game for Sabonis, cutting to the basket and working in the post to finish 11-15 from the floor. He also got to the line with regularity, going 8-8 from the line. Sabonis also had 10 rebounds, four on the offensive end, to go alongside six assists, three steals, and a block.
While Sabonis was Indiana’s best player on the night, he had plenty of help to elevate him, including six double figure scorers, a bench scoring win, 10 steals, and just as many blocked shots. Caris LeVert accounted for three of those blocks, nearly stealing the block king crown from Myles Turner tonight.
LeVert not only had a solid outing defensively, he was much more in a zone on the offensive end as well. He finished the night with 19 points on 9-18 shooting and much like Sabonis, did a bulk of his work in the paint, scoring 14 inside to help the Pacers to 64 paint points on the night. It’s been tough sledding for some of the more unorthodox aspects of LeVert’s offensive game, but he had it going tonight to Indiana’s advantage.
Turner did lead the way with four blocks, pulling in seven boards in the process. While the Wizards didn’t have much trouble scoring through much of the night, Turner’s rim protection did offer up enough resistance to at least allow the Pacers to force some stops, even though few of Turner’s blocks have been turning into Pacers’ possessions.
The starting backcourt of Brogdon and Chris Duarte rounded out an impressive showing from the starting five, with Duarte scoring 13 with five rebounds (three offensive) and four first half steals. Duarte’s timing was perfect in forcing steals, getting well out ahead of a take for two breakaways in the second quarter.
Brogdon meanwhile, had his fingers all over the flow of the offense, finishing with 19 points and eight assists (plus six rebounds). His best stretch of the night came to end the third quarter, scoring 11 in the final 5:35 on top of some earlier assists to Sabonis to not only help Indiana build their game high 17-point lead, but to help keep the game in double figures as Washington stormed back to end the third.
Brogdon’s lone assists in that stretch was to Brissett, who stepped into his third three of the night. Brissett led a huge bench effort, scoring 12 with eight rebounds and keeping a number of plays alive with his extra effort. One of those effort plays came early in the fourth when the Pacers got a pair of extra shots that eventually led to a Kelan Martin triple to put Indiana ahead by 12.
Martin hit a pair of threes as well, giving him, Brissett, and Lamb mutliple threes on the night, going 7-10 as a trio. Martin had six on 2-5 shooting, but all three of his misses rimmed out. Lamb scored 10 and Wanamaker put in four points with four assists to give the second unit a 32-29 win, much needed as the Pacers continue to play without their bench leaders in T.J. McConnell and Justin Holiday.
Tonight proved a bit of an “old school” game in some regards. The Pacers shot 9-23 from three and the Wizards were 7-15. This type of game hasn’t been commonplace in nearly a decade, but it benefited the Pacers tonight, leading to 22 free throw attempts, hitting an impressive 21.
The Pacers also outrebounded Washington by 10, pulling in 13 offensive boards, leading to 16 second chance points. The Pacers also won points off turnovers (21-16) and fast break points (13-6), somewhat getting back to their roots as a team to pick up their 10th win on the year.
The win improves Indiana to 10-16, still far and away from where they’d like to be, but if it gets them in a better place heading into the second half of this six game homestand, it’ll be worth it. The Pacers are back at it on Wednesday, hosting the New York Knicks, who are losers of three straight and will on the back half of a road back-to-back.