Pacers at Wizards

Bjorkgren on Slowing Down the Wizards

May 19, 2021 - Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren discusses why the Wizards have caused such problems for Indiana's defense this season and the importance of keeping them out of transition.

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Bjorkgren on Slowing Down the Wizards

May 19, 2021 - Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren discusses why the Wizards have caused such problems for Indiana's defense this season and the importance of keeping them out of transition.
May 19, 2021  |  02:42

Justin Holiday on Wizards Matchup, Pacers' Energy

May 19, 2021 - Justin Holiday discusses the challenges of defending Washington with their dynamic backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal and the Pacers' higher energy level in recent days.
May 19, 2021  |  02:24

Game Preview: Pacers at Wizards (Play-In Tournament)

Thursday, May 20, 2021 at 8:00 PM ET at Capital One Arena

Pacers.com Game Preview presented by DraftKings

Matchup

After dominating the Hornets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday, the Pacers have advanced to the second and final round of the NBA's new Play-In Tournament. Indiana will visit Washington on Thursday for a win-or-go-home game against Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, and the Wizards. The winner will advance to the playoffs for a best-of-seven series against top-seeded Philadelphia, while the loser will be eliminated.

The Blue & Gold are coming off arguably their most impressive performance of the season, a 144-117 drubbing of Charlotte. Indiana played like a team not ready to have its season end from the opening tip, pestering the Hornets on both ends with infectious energy.

The Pacers will need to bring the same fire on Thursday against a Wizards team that has taken it to Indiana this season. Washington swept three games with the Blue & Gold and had their way offensively, averaging 139.7 points over those contests. In their last visit to Washington on May 3, the Pacers gave up 154 points — tied for the most points in the NBA all season and one point shy of the most ever by a Pacers opponent.

Westbrook, in particular, has wreaked havoc on the Pacers. The former MVP has averaged an eye-popping 27.3 points, 18 rebounds, and 20 assists against Indiana this season. Beal has been a problem, too, dropping 50 points in 39 minutes at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 8.

Slowing down that duo will not be an easy task and it won't help that the Pacers will be without a guard capable of matching Beal or Westbrook shot for shot, as Caris LeVert remains out due to the NBA's health and safety protocols. Leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon did return on Tuesday, however, after missing 10 games with a hamstring injury. The 6-5 Brogdon, 6-6 Justin Holiday, and 6-4 Edmond Sumner will probably be the primary defenders responsible for marking Westbrook and Beal, though containing them will be a team task.

Projected Starters

Pacers: PG - Malcolm Brogdon, SG - Justin Holiday, SF - Doug McDermott, PF - Oshae Brissett, C - Domantas Sabonis
Wizards: PG - Russell Westbrook, SG - Raul Neto, SF - Bradley Beal, PF - Rui Hachimura, C - Alex Len

Injury Report

Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon - questionable (sore right hamstring), Edmond Sumner - questionable (left knee contusion), Jeremy Lamb - out (sore left knee), Caris LeVert - out (health and safety protocols), Myles Turner - out (partial plantar plate tear, right foot great toe), T.J. Warren - out (left foot stress fracture)

Wizards: Deni Avdija - out (right ankle fracture), Thomas Bryant - out (left ACL injury)

Last Meeting

May 5, 2021: Russell Westbrook made a pair of free throws with one second left to put Washington in front, then blocked Caris LeVert on the other end as the Wizards came away with a 133-132 overtime victory in an epic duel at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Westbrook tied Oscar Robertson's career triple-doubles record in the victory, tallying 33 points, 19 rebounds, and 15 assists. Bradley Beal, meanwhile, scored 50 points in 39 minutes before leaving the game late in regulation with a hamstring injury.

For the Pacers, Domantas Sabonis also recorded a triple-double with 30 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists. Caris LeVert also had a big night, scoring a team-high 35 points to go along with 14 rebounds and eight assists. If he had recorded two more assists, it would have been the first game in NBA history where three players had triple-doubles.

"We fought," LeVert said postgame. "We fought hard all night. Sometimes, in basketball, you feel like you do everything right — you should win — and it doesn't happen."

Noteworthy

  • The Wizards swept the regular season series with Indiana this season for the first time since 2006-07.
  • Indiana and Washington have met once in the postseason. The Pacers prevailed 4-2 in the 2014 Eastern Conference semifinals.
  • At stake on Thursday is a playoff berth. Indiana has reached the playoffs in five straight seasons and nine of the last 10 years. The Wizards missed the playoffs the past two seasons.

Broadcast Information TV & Radio Listings »

TV: TNT - Marv Albert (play-by-play), Mike Fratello (analyst)
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Eddie Gill (analyst), Pat Boylan (studio host)





by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

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