With a solid opportunity to pick up their first three-game winning streak since the opening three games of the season, the Indiana Pacers opted to go in the opposite direction, throwing up one of their worst outings of the season in a laughable loss to the Washington Wizards. The Pacers never really exerted themselves, allowing Russell Westbrook to dictate the terms of the game all night for a staggering 35-point, 21-assist triple double.
The concerns came rather early in this particular game. Malcolm Brogdon’s shooting helped put the Pacers up early, leading 18-12, only to have the Wizards tie it up in under two minutes. It was the story of the game all night for the Pacers, who seemed capable of composing themselves long enough to keep the game from swinging more than two possessions either direction, but playing well for literally no longer than that.
The pendulum swung wildly in this one, featuring 20 ties and 22 lead changes. Washington led 110-107 early in the fourth when the Pacers put up their best run of the night, a 9-0 stretch capped on a scorcher of a layup by Edmond Sumner that put the Pacers ahead 116-110.
With maybe some momentum in their favor, the Pacers immediately surrendered 11 straight points, going down by five, recovering long enough to make a single layup, then giving up four more points to allow Washington the first three possession lead of the game for either team, going ahead 125-118 with under two minutes left.
Backing up to Indiana’s 9-0 run, it’s a minor miracle they were even able to string together that many points. The Pacers managed to get into the penalty early in the fourth, but were just 2-5 at the line in that stretch. It was part of a larger free throw shooting issue on the night, getting there an impressive 33 times, but missing nine attempts in the process, each one more excruciating than the last.
The downside to Indiana’s inability to capitalize at...well...anything is that Washington picked up more and more confidence as the game progressed, getting more and more comfortable offensively in either slashing inside for easy buckets or torturing the hapless Pacers on the offensive glass. By the time Washington’s 8-point win was secured, the Wizards had scored 74 points in the paint and 13 off of 12 offensive rebounds.
For the game, the Wizards shot 55.6%, posting quarters of 33, 38, and 37, all wins for the home team. Indiana was a mess with turnovers at times tonight and while they finished with a fairly respectable 14 (forcing 19 Washington turnovers), they still lost the points off turnover battle, getting outscored 17-14 and coming up extra short in fast break opportunities, losing 18-11.
To make matters even worse, it was about as bad an individual outing as it was a team outing. As mentioned, Brogdon’s shooting propped up the Indiana offense early, leading to his 26 points for the game, but he was ineffective late in the fourth, shooting 1-4 in the quarter and missing both of his three point attempts after hitting five early in the game.
Domantas Sabonis led the way with 35 points, getting to the line 15 times, but missing five. He also had a team high five turnovers, struggling to thread passes against a Washington defense that seemed content to let him try. Beyond that, it was the worst kind of balanced scoring: all 10 players in the rotation scoring four or more, but only Myles Turner and J. Holiday reaching double figures (Turner leading the way with 11).
It was an especially bad night for Holiday, who was just 3-11 from the floor. Without Doug McDermott due to an ankle sprain, his struggles, along with a woeful 3-14 night from Caris LeVert and an injury shortened outing from Jeremy Lamb, compounded Indiana’s offensive issues on a night where they simply didn’t do much defensively.
Turner did finish with four blocks, coming alive in the fourth with a pair of threes, but he was again limited within the flow of the offense, taking just seven attempts. Goga Bitadze played just seven minutes, scoring eight in his limited run though it’s hard to look at either as a source of offense, especially with so much running through Sabonis inside tonight.
Whether this was a clunker, a trap game, or the continuation of a troubling trend, tonight’s game was not much fun. Fortunately, the long road haul is over, wrapping up a stretch in which they played 16 of 21 away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse with an 8-8 record.
They’ll have their first two-game homestand in nearly two months starting on Wednesday, wrapping up the season series with the Miami Heat, likely facing Victor Oladipo in his Miami debut. The Pacers should play better than they did tonight, but with uncertainty surrounding McDermott and Lamb, it’s hard to really tell what that might look like.