INDIANAPOLIS – Finally, it’s over.
One of the uglier seasons in recent Pacers history ended on Thursday in an utterly pathetic performance.
Starting with a poor lineup decision in the second quarter, the Wizards pulled ahead for good and dominated the Pacers, 142-115, to end Indiana’s season.
Indiana will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
Whereas the Wizards knew they must keep Russell Westbrook and/or Bradley Beal on the floor at all times, the Pacers elected to go with a full bench unit in the second quarter. That helped start a 16-0 run for the Wizards, which built a lead that would only grow.
Malcolm Brogdon led Indiana with 24 points.
Domantas Sabonis struggled early on, but did finish with another triple-double (19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists). Sabonis fouled out with 9 minutes to go in the game.
Unlike the Wizards, the Pacers got hardly any bench contributions and once again struggled mightily on the defensive end of the floor.
Beal scored 25 to lead the Wizards. Westbrook had 18 points, 15 assists and 8 rebounds in 33 minutes of work.
The loss eliminated the Pacers from the play-in tournament and gave the Wizards the 8th and final seed.
Indiana has now gone 3 seasons without winning a playoff game and 7 years without winning a playoff series.
The Pacers are now slotted into the lottery, with the 13th spot in the draft. They have a 4.8 percent chance at getting a top-4 pick when the lottery is announced in late June.
Three Things Learned
1. No Answer For the Wizards Stars: Well, that was an ugly end to an already ugly season. This game was lost in the second quarter. With the Wizards knowing full well that they must stagger stars Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal in lineups, the Pacers countered by going with a full bench unit. Washington was able to build a multi-possession lead then, and that cushion grew and grew. It was a huge mistake by Nate Bjorkgren. During that span, Indiana also got owned by the center trio of the Wizards. That’s a group of Alex Len, Daniel Gafford and Robin Lopez doing some huge damage in the 1st half. Washington beat Indiana in all 4 meetings this season.
2. Simon, Personnel Decisions Needed: Will the Simon family fire a head coach after one season for the first time in nearly 4 decades of ownership? Do they feel that Kevin Pritchard must go, if indeed the hiring of Nate Bjorkgren leads to that firing? Those are the first decisions that need to be made by Herb Simon and his family. Then, depending on how things play out management and head coach wise, there’s some definite personnel questions to be answered. When you look at this roster, injuries were beyond brutal. But that doesn’t mean you run it back with the same group. Decisions need to be made on the future of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis starting/playing together. And then another on if Malcolm Brogdon should continue to be the point guard of the future, or if he would be better utilized off the ball more.
3. Free Agents In McDermott, McConnell: Both Pacers in the rotation that are free agents had really strong years. Let’s begin with Doug McDermott, who hits free agency after 3 years in Indiana. McDermott, 29, is looking at a really nice pay day after having a career year under Nate Bjorkgren. So many peg McDermott as a standstill 3-point shooter, but he’s shown that he can still be more than that, getting downhill and finishing at the rim really well. T.J. McConnell, 29, is also hitting free agency after a career year. While McConnell will have limitations that scare teams (not a three-point shooter at his size), he also can be the exact veteran presence that a second unit would love to add. Indiana doesn’t have much cap space this offseason, so as much as these two returning would make sense, that’s going to be difficult to pull off.