The Indiana Pacers ended up on the wrong side of a wild finish, falling to the Washington Wizards in overtime after building a four-point lead earlier in the extra period. With the teams going back and forth all night, it came down to Russell Westbrook making an incredible play, blocking Caris LeVert’s wide open three point attempt with a second on the clock.
Indiana’s inability to pull in rebounds, coupled with a pair of tough foul calls in the final 30 seconds that went against them, kept them from being able to close out the win, dropping them behind Washington for 10th in the East with five game remaining. It was a much better showing overall for the Pacers, who stuck with more straightforward defensive schemes, allowing them to inch the Washington point total to a series best 124 in regulation.
Unfortunately, it was still 124 and it was still enough to force overtime. The Pacers led by 12 with 7:56 remaining in the fourth, riding their bench unit against Westbrook and Bradley Beal to go up by 12. But Beal scored five straight as a response, kicking off a 14-3 run that cut the game to one. Caris LeVert picked that time to miss three straight free throws, but did push the lead back out to three with a jumper with under 2:30 on the clock.
Beal scored his 50th point of the night in a 4-0 run to put Washington over the top 120-119. LeVert responded with a three and after a rare fourth quarter stop, Domantas Sabonis was whistled for an over the back foul fighting for the rebound. That sent Daniel Gafford to the line for two free throws. A no-call on another fight for the board favored Washington, setting up Westbrook for the go-ahead bucket in regulation.
LeVert had a response, tying it up with a layup with 13 seconds to go. The Pacers held on the defensive end, forcing the extra period on a Westbrook miss.
In overtime, Oshae Brissett and LeVert scored to put Indiana ahead by four, cut down to one immediately on a laser by Davis Bertans. Westbrook put Washington ahead on their following possession, setting up Edmond Sumner to pull up for a tough go-ahead bucket with 1:03 on the clock.
On a rebound attempt with 18 seconds remaining, Sabonis was again called for a foul after being crashed into waiting for the board. The Pacers stood up, with Justin Holiday blocking Westbrook’s layup attempt only to have the rebounding opportunity come up with Gafford and the Wizards for long enough to escape with a timeout.
As the game wound down, Westbrook was again crowded on a game-winning attempt, but this time LeVert was whistled for the foul, allowing Westbrook to put Washington up on a pair of free throws with a second left, giving him plenty of time to block LeVert for the Wizards W.
It was a heartbreaking finish for a Pacers team that played extremely well for much of the night. Some of the late whistles were quite unfortunate, but Indiana was still able to hold the lead with just seconds left on the clock, just failing to finish out enough plays to come away with it.
Westbrook gets the accolades for tonight’s game, finishing with 33 points, 19 rebounds, and 15 assists, tying Oscar Robertson for most triple doubles in NBA history. He got plenty of help tonight from Beal, who finished with 50 before going out of the game late in the fourth for good.
For the Pacers, they got another fantastic outing from Sabonis, who had 30 points, 13 assists, and 13 rebounds. LeVert meanwhile neared a triple double of his own, finishing with 35 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists. Unfortunately, the duo had nine turnovers and LeVert was just 12-30 from the floor.
All five starters reached double figures for the Pacers, with Sumner scoring 13, Brissett putting in 12, and Doug McDermott finishing with 11. Despite a back-and-forth, plenty of offensive kind of night, Indiana was just 7-29 from three point range, which McDermott and J. Holiday combining for 2-9.
Washington’s ability to finish off quarters helped keep them in the game after Indiana had all but won the first and second quarters, keeping them from winning either. Those six points proved to be the difference in this one, even after LeVert had gotten three back to end the third.
Though the final score doesn’t necessarily reflect it, it was a much better defensive showing for the Pacers, holding Washington 45% shooting and 9-32 from three. They outscored Washington in the paint 72-66 and kept the game close in fast break points, losing 24-20. They also won the points off turnover battle 27-14. Unfortunately, rebounding ended up being the difference maker, with the Wizards pulling in 15 offensive boards.
The Pacers drop to 10th in the East at 31-36 with tonight’s loss. While they may briefly peak their head back into 9th when they face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, it was a long time coming for a team that’s really struggled to piece together wins with so many guys out.
It was also something that may have happened eventually anyway, as following Monday’s game against Cleveland, Indiana’s next three opponents are Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and LA Lakers. Regardless of how they finish out these next five games, they’re almost certainly going end up in the league’s play-in games, though there’s still an outside chance Chicago can catch them, sitting three games back with the tiebreaker, each team with five games remaining.