Wizards can't finish, fall to the Pacers
For those that watched the Wizards' Friday night home loss to Milwaukee but perhaps were out on a Saturday night and missed the latest contest at Indiana, you know what happened: Washington scrapped throughout, had stretches where the shots fell, the hustle rewarded. However a fourth quarter scoring drought proved problematic, the corresponding run by the other team becomes decisive.
Emeka Okafor and Bradley Beal scored 17 points, A.J. Price tallied 12 points and a career-high 14 assists, but the Wizards were on the wrong end of a 10-0 run that spurred the Pacers to a 89-85 win.
After Indiana's surge turned a 75-70 Washington lead into an 80-75 Pacers advantage with 8:14 remaining, the Wizards never could climb back on top. Down 87-80 with 1:44 left, Beal's 3-pointer and Okafor's short jumper pulled the Wizards within two. After Paul George's 3-pointer missed its mark, Trevor Booker's 10-foot half-hook with four seconds remaining came up short, as did the Wizards.
George, who finished with 18 points, sealed the win with two free throws as the Pacers snapped a three-game losing streak and extended of run of eight straight home triumphs over Washington.
Off for two days, Washington's three-game road swing continues Tuesday at Charlotte.
Here's what else happened against the Pacers...
* A.J. Price ladies and gentlemen. The Wizards starting point guard made it clear to his teammates this matchup against his former team was one he wanted. The fourth-year vet did his part, especially in the first half, finishing with 8 assists, 7 points and zero turnovers. His new career-high breaks his previous of high nine assists set way back on Friday against the Bucks. Price never did commit a turnover against the team he spent the first three seasons of his NBA career with, though he became a little shot happy during the second half.
* The Pacers' scouting report correctly had their defenders give Okafor open looks from the elbow or beyond, but the Wizards center made them pay with several mid-range makes. Nobody will compare his perimeter touch with Patrick Ewing, but if Okafor's high post range proves competent, it will allow Kevin Seraphin (and someday, Nene) to play inside when paired together. Speaking of that, has Randy Wittman paired his two centers together on the court together this season? Don't think so. One of the questions following the trade with the Hornets was how Okafor would mesh with the other bigs. Guess we're still waiting.
*Okafor also spearheaded the defensive effort against Pacers center and former Georgetown star Roy Hibbert, who struggled throughout, missing 12 of 15 and committing four turnovers. In 13 previous games against the Wizards, the 7-foot-2 Hibbert averaged 12.2 points and shot 51.3 percent from field.
*Washington drained 10 of 24 3-point attempts, though only 2 of 7 in the fourth quarter. Beal, who at times was appropriately channeling former Pacer Reggie Miller with the way he would work his way open for looks, finished a perfect 3 of 3 from beyond the arc. Jordan Crawford also sank three from beyond the arc, his only baskets overall with two of his makes coming from the parking lot. It's the most 3-pointers made in a game by Crawford since he sank five last April against...Indiana.
*Those dreaded scoring droughts, two notable spans in this one. Leading 47-40 with 3:32 left in the half, the Wizards had chances to extend the lead but didn't. Instead Indiana rallied to tie the game at 49 at halftime. Same story in the fourth quarter. After Crawford's 3-pointer put Washington ahead 75-70 with 11:33 remaining, the Wizards' next points came on a Booker dunk nearly five minutes later. When the opposition takes their defensive level up a rung or two, Washington simpy does not have the counter punch offensively unless all five players are clicking. That hasn't happened much this season, esepcially not late, leading to forced attempts with the shot clock winding down.
* The scoring split between the starters and bench was not nearly as pronounced as it has been throughout the season, though Kevin Seraphin didn't join the fun. After extending his double-digit scoring streak dating back to last season to 18 straight games, Seraphin has scored six points over the last two games.