For the third time this month — the fourth time overall — the Pacers battled the Washington Wizards. This time, both teams' playoff hopes were on the line in the final Eastern Conference Play-In game.
Despite battling tough early, the Blue & Gold ultimately fell to the Wizards, 142-115, at Capital One Arena Thursday night. The loss means the Pacers will enter the NBA Draft Lottery with the 13th-best odds. The squad has not been eligible for the lottery since the 2014-15 season.
Once again, tonight's game boiled down to Washington's dominance down low. The hosts outscored Indiana 72-40 in the paint and used a 16-0 run midway through the second quarter to control the game for good. Indiana shot just 41-for-100 from the field.
"Twelve of those points were in transition," coach Nate Bjorkgren pointed out postgame. "That was a difficult part there."
Washington finished with 16 points on the fast break.
"They played well," he added. "They played very well — very well against us. We had a hard time with them this year for different reasons."
Six Pacers finished in double figures to end the season. Malcolm Brogdon finished with a team-high 24 points, while Domantas Sabonis recorded a 19-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple-double to go out on a high note. Kelan Martin added a bench-high 13.
Washington's Bradley Beal led everyone with 25 points on an efficient 9-of-17 from the floor. Russell Westbrook finished two rebounds shy of another triple-double against Indiana, recording 18 points, eight boards, and 15 assists. Rui Hachimura added another 18 on 6-of-8 shooting.
A slow start for both teams led to a 12-all score at the first timeout of the game with 6:56 to go. Brogdon helped the Pacers' offense get going with seven early points, including a speedy layup just before the stoppage. The guard appeared to be more comfortable with his first step after dealing with a lingering hamstring injury that kept him out of the final 10 games of the regular season.
The game remained close as play continued. Trailing 24-21, Doug McDermott tallied six straight points off two triples to regain a 27-24 Indiana lead with 2:39 to play. McDermott provided the fireworks in the Pacers' first Play-In game against the Charlotte Hornets, notching 20 before the half.
Down the stretch, a run of six unanswered Washington points gave the Wizards a three-point edge. But a tough finish from Sabonis down low with 15.2 seconds to go trimmed the Pacers' deficit to 30-29 as the squads prepared for the second. The Blue & Gold finished just 12-of-29 from the floor and 5-of-12 from deep — a stark contrast from two nights ago.
Indiana's shooting woes continued over the first several minutes of the second. A step-back three from Kelan Martin tied the score at 34-all with 10:22 to play. However, the Blue & Gold then suffered a 3:50 scoreless streak. Meanwhile, Washington earned the upper hand by finishing in the paint. A run of 16 unanswered gave the hosts a 50-34 lead with 6:49 to go before Sabonis ended the drought with a two-handed flush.
Washington's lead fluctuated between 12 and 16 points for the remainder of the frame. Despite decent looks for Indiana, they just could not get the shots to fall. Trailing 66-50, Justin Holiday cut the squad's deficit to 14 with a cutting layup off a dish from Sabonis before the half.
A 10-5 Wizards run — eight off driving layups — pushed Washington's lead to 76-57 with 9:22 to go in the third. Indiana also continued to struggle shooting from nearly every location on the floor.
Threes from Beal and Raul Neto on consecutive Wizards possessions pushed the host's advantage to 84-64 with 6:46 left in the third. It appeared to get worse from there as Beal heated up from the floor. The NBA's second-leading scorer in the regular season then recorded six points in a 0:28 span to put the Pacers into a 91-66 hole with 5:42 to go.
Six free throws and a 3-pointer from Beal — his fourth — pushed Washington to the 100-point mark with 3:32 still to play in the third. Edmond Sumner got on the scoreboard for the Pacers, notching five points in an 0:18 span. However, Indiana still found itself down by a substantial margin. The Wizards headed to the final frame holding a commanding 114-83 lead.
Washington started the fourth with an alley-oop from Chandler Hutchison. In a way, it was a perfect representation of how tonight went for the Blue & Gold.
A small 6-0 spurt from Indiana cut Washington's lead to 116-89 with 9:39 to go. However, a comeback was just not in the cards for Indiana tonight. Sabonis picked up his sixth and final foul 0:20 later on a called charge, ending his night early. Both teams began rotating in their deep benches with just over eight minutes to play.
For Washington, this means their impressive end-of-season run will continue. Seemingly out of the playoff hunt, the club went 17-6 down the stretch to earn a Play-In spot. Despite a slip-up against the Boston Celtics in their first Play-In game, they have earned the right to play the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs — a tough task.
For Indiana, the offseason means a chance to heal after a season marred by injuries. After an upsetting season, fans can be sure the Blue & Gold will come back next season with a vengeance, looking to prove they belong with the top teams of the Eastern Conference.
Inside the Numbers
The Pacers lost the battle on the glass, 60-47.
Indiana finished second in the league with an average of 16.6 fastbreak points per game. On Thursday, they had only five.
Doug McDermott (13 points) finished out the season by scoring double figures in 16 straight games.
Oshae Brissett finished out his Pacers season with 10 points and six boards.
You Can Quote Me On That
"They got on a roll. They got two elite players on that team. And they're at home. They're playing for something like we are. So, when a team gets that type of momentum it's hard." –Brogdon on the Wizards' run
"We had guys that really stepped up. I spoke in the locker room right after the game and just told everybody 'I'm proud of y'all. I'm proud of us.' Guys stepped up. Oshae (Brissett), Ed (Sumner), Aaron (Holiday). Those guys stepped up and played at a level that people didn't think they could. I'm proud of my guys." –Brogdon's on the team's chemistry this year
"(It was) a lot of ups and downs. But the group we had was special. The locker room was great since day one to today. We all love playing together. We just hope things (improve on) the court." –Sabonis on his and the team's season
Stat of the Night
Washington shot 54-of-93 (58.1 percent) from the floor, including 14-of-28 from 3-point range.
- Washington bested Indiana in all four contests this season.
- Including only the Pacers' current roster, 12 players spent time sidelined due to injuries for a combined total of 210 games.
- The NBA will hold its annual NBA Draft Lottery on June 22, where Indiana will find where it will pick in the 2021-22 NBA Draft