INDIANAPOLIS – There is no ‘d’ in the word ‘Pacers’ and that was abundantly clear on Monday night.
In one of the poorest defensive performances in franchise history.
Behind an astonishing 96 points in the paint, 50 assists and 61 percent shooting, the Wizards (30-35) scored 154 points and beat the Pacers by 13.
The 154 points allowed was one short of a franchise record and it came despite Washington hitting just 9 three-pointers.
Russell Westbrook shredded Indiana with 14 points, 24 assists and 21 rebounds.
Offense wasn’t the issue for the Pacers on Monday.
Caris LeVert led Indiana with 33 points. Domantas Sabonis had 32 points, 19 rebounds and 9 assists.
But zero resistance on the defensive end allowed the Wizards to build a comfortable first-half lead and cruise from there.
Indiana once again played without Myles Turner (toe) and Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring).
With the loss, Indiana (30-34) has now lost the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Wizards (see more below).
Edmond Sumner suffered a left knee contusion and did not return to the game.
Indiana will return home for 3 straight games, including a back-to-back on Wednesday (Kings) and Thursday (Hawks).
Three Things Learned
1. Defense, Defense, Defense: Who do the Pacers miss more—Dan Burke or Myles Turner? Whatever the answer, the defense of the Indiana Pacers has been an issue all season long. Nate Bjorkgren took over with the belief that the defense needed some tweaks. That meant a more aggressive approach in running out on perimeter players. It meant more of a willingness to switch/or change up defenses throughout a game. Monday was a pathetic effort on that end of the floor with Indiana routinely getting beat in transition and an inability to stay in front of Wizards ballhandlers. As much as Turner’s rim protection would mask some other mistakes, the Pacers have been porous all season long in keeping the opponent out of the paint on a consistent basis.
2. Playoff Hope: Monday was another important head-to-head tiebreaker that the Pacers have now lost. Given how the standings look, Indiana should punch their ticket for the play-in format. But it’s looking like a long shot that they’ll be positioned to definitely have two shots at the postseason, or maybe even not have a home game. Obviously, a big reason for this continued late-season slide comes from the personnel available to Nate Bjorkgren. Along with Myles Turner’s (toe) continued absence and questions about him returning again this season, Malcolm Brogdon has now missed multiple games due to a sore right hamstring. It goes without saying that any shot to make noise in the play-in format will need to have a healthy Brogdon. It might be even better to have a healthy Turner, given the defensive issues, but his return date is very much up in the air.
3. Play-In Preview? With just 8 games to go in the regular season, this matchup could very well be there again in the play-in part of the season. Now, Indiana still could climb up to No. 8 and get two cracks at making the actual playoffs. But they would need to finish above Charlotte (lost the head-to-head series tiebreaker) and Washington. Facing Washington, in a must-win situation, is not what the Pacers want. With a healthy, and engaged, Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, the Wizards have one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league, which has spurred their late-season run. It’s critical in this final week and a half of the season that the Pacers try to avoid the Wizards in the play-in game.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-Kings (Wednesday, 5/5, at 8:00 PM)
-Hawks (Thursday, 5/6 at 8:00 PM)
-Wizards (Saturday, 5/8 at 7:00 PM)
-@Cavaliers (Monday, 5/10 at 7:30 PM)
-76ers (Tuesday, 5/11 at 8:00 PM)
Eastern Conference Playoff Picture
1. 76ers (44-21, .677)
2. Nets (43-22, .662)
3. Bucks (40-24, .625)
4. Knicks (37-28, .569)
5. Hawks (36-30, .545)
6. Heat (35-30, .538)
7. Celtics (34-31, .523)
8. Hornets (31-33, .484)
9. Pacers (30-34, .469)
10. Wizards (30-35, .462)
Outside Looking In
-Bulls (27-38, .415)
-Raptors (26-39, .400)