Johnson: Pacers stop Wizards' streak

Johnson: Pacers stop Wizards' streak
April 7, 2011, 1:38 am
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011 9:40 p.m.

By Dave Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers played like a team with a chance to clinch a playoff spot. The Washington Wizards played like a fatigued team on the second of back-to-back games. The result was a 136-112 Pacers victory that ended the Wizards' three-game winning streak.

With the win and the Bobcats' loss to the Magic, the Pacers are set for the postseason for the first time since 2006. All five Pacers starters scored in double figures, led by Danny Granger with 25 points. Rookie Paul George added 23 points and was 5 of 6 beyond the arc.

The Pacers were 13 of 24 from three-point distance, but what doomed the Wizards was the first quarter. Granger and fellow frontcourt players Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert dominated early and helped the Pacers to a 43-29 advantage after 12 minutes.

Trying to contain the Pacers big men put JaVale McGee in early foul trouble, and he ended with five fouls in a little over nine minutes played. Granger, Hansbrough and Hibbert combined to shoot 13 of 14 from the free-throw line in the first quarter.

We just got into a lot of foul trouble, Wizards forward Andray Blatche said. Its hard to play with a team when they do that. When we got down, we started to panic and instead of sticking to the system, we kind of did our own thing. But that happens with a lot of young guys playing like we have.

Blatche continued his inspired play and tried to keep the Wizards within striking distance with 16 points in the first quarter.

At halftime, Blatche and Jordan Crawford each had 20 points, but the Wizards trailed the Pacers 75-56. Crawford led the Wizards with a game-high 29 points, while Blatche finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds. It was Blatches fourth straight game with at least 10 rebounds.

The Pacers are next to last in the NBA in assists per-game, but against the Wizards did a masterful job in sharing the ball. In shooting 59 percent from the field, the Pacers totaled 32 assists. Point guard Darren Collison had 11 assists to go with 15 points.

By contrast, the Wizards scored had only 10 assists on 40 field goals. John Wall had four of the Wizards assists and finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.

Energy caught up to us, Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. Guys just didnt seem to have that pep in their step. We let them get into too much of a comfort zone. We tried then to do things on our own and played very selfish. We didnt move the ball, didnt play as a team, didnt do the things that we can get done.

Off the bench, Othyus Jeffers scored 13 points and Larry Owens had nine points for the Wizards. Owens was signed from the D-leagues Tulsa 66ers after Cartier Martin was released. With Martin out with a stress fracture in his left foot, the Wizards were down to nine healthy players before signing Owens.

Fatigue can make cowards of us in situations and you have to fight through, Saunders said. Now we have a day off and we have to bounce back against Boston.