The franchise-best offensive output that gave the Indiana Pacers 152 points on Saturday showed up again, putting up an impressive 141 against the Washington Wizards. Unfortunately, they opted to pair it with a near franchise-worst defensive output, allowing 154 points, one shy of the franchise record, as they drop their seventh straight game against playoff or play-in opponents.
The numbers in this one are as eye-popping as the last one, but almost exclusively in the other direction as the Wizards just piled on the Pacers defense. The Wizards blew up their already staggering 74 points in the paint from March, finishing with 96. They also had 50 assists as a team, led by Russell Westbrook with 24. The Wizards shot over 60%, getting there thanks to points in transition, outscoring Indiana 30-4.
There’s nothing arguable about tonight being Indiana’s worst defensive performance of the season, but it was beyond a typical bad night for a what’s been a slightly above average defense with Myles Turner, never mind without him. As J. Michael noted, the bad habits on defense were on full display on every level, from transition to rim protection. That’s an especially bad sign when going up against one of the league’s best point guards in Westbrook.
Similar to their loss against Portland, it was clear early on the Pacers would need to stay in the game through their offense alone. Also similar to the loss against Portland, that was only sustainable for so long. Back-to-back threes early in the second quarter drew Indiana to within two at 45-43, but the inability to string together stops made it too easy for Washington to inch that lead back out to six in about 20 seconds of game action.
The last time Indiana was within breathing distance of the Wizards was later in the second when Caris LeVert twice cut the lead to four. Again, Washington scored as a response, pushing the lead back out to three possessions. A 14-2 Wizards run with the game at 62-58 more or less put a capper on this one, as the Pacers stumbled on each of their ensuing comeback attempts, failing to get the game within 10 the rest of the way.
The sheer amount of offense in tonight’s game (295 points!) gave way to 17 double figure scorers. The only rotation player on either team to not reach double figures was Raul Neto, who finished with nine. While impressive on its face, it proved to a bad fit mathematically for the Pacers, who ran with an eight-man rotation while Washington played 10.
Domantas Sabonis had a big night offensively, scoring 32 points and picking up 20 points with eight assists, but still didn’t post the high in rebounds or scoring. LeVert did have a game high 33, but struggled on the whole, going 11-28, including some tough misses late that might’ve cut the lead into single digits, albeit probably briefly.
Rui Hachimura and Bradley Beal led the way with 27 & 26 respectively, Hachimura in particular putting it on the Pacers on 12-19 shooting. While both teams had two solid scoring nights, the Wizards benefited from a third impact performance from Westbrook. The Pacers simply lacked that same punch tonight to keep pace offensively.
Doug McDermott followed his 31-point night with just 11, going 1-3 from deep. The Pacers as a whole shot the ball incredibly well from deep, going 14-27, but they were lacking a difference-maker from deep as only Justin Holiday hit three. Holiday, along with Aaron Holiday and T.J. McConnell each scored 15 off the bench. Oshae Brissett had one of his least effective games as a starter, scoring 10 on 2-7 shooting with four boards while Edmond Sumner was again an in-game scratch due to that lingering left knee issue.
The Pacers not having enough on offense shouldn’t even be a discussion point when scoring 141 points, but they’ve shown themselves to be especially bad defensively against teams with a pulse as they continue to contend with extensive injuries. The schedule has done the Pacers as many favors as possible in getting them wins, but in their last three losses, they’ve allowed 417 points.
The bad news, if the goal is to be as high in the standings as possible, this loss to Washington gives the Wizards the head-to-head tiebreaker as they climb to within a half game Indiana for 9th. With eight games remaining, there is still plenty of movement possible within the four play-in teams, but it seems like this Saturday’s game against the Wizards may not be the last.
Indiana’s last real chance to pick up some wins in bulk to end the regular season will come in these next four games, though there’s far from any guarantee on that front. Their next opponent will be the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, who themselves have had a nice surge of late, going 5-3 with three wins against Dallas and a win over the Lakers.