Indiana Pacers’ forward Paul George had his best game against the Washington Wizards last night at the Verizon Center. He shot a season-high 40 points and put up seven of the franchise-record 19 three-pointers against a defenseless home team and ended Washington’s three-game winning streak. The Wizards ended up falling to the Pacers in a mind-blowing loss, 123-106.
Despite a great effort by Washington, the Pacers were just unstoppable. They exploded with a season-high 73.1 percent (19-26) from the three-point range after beating their own previous record high of 44.4 percent (12 of 27). Between George and teammate C.J. Miles (forward), they combined to score 72 of the 123 points for Indiana. George, playing better than he did before his leg injury, went seven-of-eight from beyond the arc and added eight rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes. Miles scored his best (32) since joining the Pacers a season ago. George and Miles shot a perfect nine-for-nine just by the end of the first half.
Coming into the game, the Wizards knew what kind of rival the Pacers were going to be after their loss in Game 4 of the playoffs last year. The home team did everything they could do to defend against this perimeter scoring team.
In the first half, Washington remained close, finishing up the first quarter down by two points behind the Pacers, 33-31. Wizards guard Bradley Beal had put up 11 points despite looking rusty in the previous game against the Detroit Pistons. Washington led in fast-break points and contested a lot of Indiana’s shots. Still, it wasn’t enough for the Wizards with shooting percentages as high as 68 percent for the Pacers just in the first quarter alone.
Fortunately, Washington managed to bounce back in the second quarter with its bench getting the job done.
Washington forward/center Nene was four-for-five from the bench and kept the pressure deep to the basket. However, the night really belonged to teammate Gary Neal (guard) as the high-scorer for the Wizards. He scored 23 points from the bench to help the Wizards keep the game close (13 of these in the second quarter and another 10 points in the fourth).
By the end of the second quarter, Washington had a four-point lead, shooting 57 percent while the Pacers answered right back with 60 percent shooting averages from the field. Beal contributed by scoring 15 points going into the half. The Wizards were only down by one point at halftime, 61-62. Despite record highs for Indiana, the Wizards stayed close for half of the game.
Midway through the third quarter, the Pacers’ lead widened. Washington lacked energy but still tried to slow the Pacers down. They had gotten sloppy by then, with 16 turnovers that led to 18 points for Indiana. Even though the big men put up helpful numbers and were defending, it was still a perimeter game. There wasn’t much NeNe and center Marcin Gortat could do if the Pacers could make three-pointers several feet away from the arc. The two players combined had 21 points. NeNe was four-for-five and finished up with seven rebounds and four assists. Gortat closed out with nine rebounds and five assists. They were both in the game for at least 23 minutes. By the end of the third, the Pacers had outscored Wizards 31 to 21.
Washington trailed by 11 going into the fourth quarter, 93-82.
With the Pacers’ superman in charge, things got worse for the Wizards. George beat down the Wizards with three-point shots, floaters and step back jump shots. No one could stop him.
Even Beal, despite running-and-gunning all night, let out some frustration of his own after last night’s loss.
“When I’m standing this close to you and you’re still making shots,” he said, “I mean what else do you want us to do?”
The Pacers were simply relentless, forcing the Wizards to commit 21 turnovers in the end that lead to 23 points for Indiana and the team’s third straight win.
In losses like this, the Wizards will have to figure out who can really defend them at the perimeter, especially since they got a wake-up call in similar fashion a few weeks ago against the Boston Celtics, who Washington plays again later this week.
In these two teams’ first match-up, the Wizards gave up 118 points to the Celtics, who shot 61.2 percent just in the first half. It’s as if this same scenario repeated itself last night with the Pacers. One can see that the Wizards need a lifeline at the perimeter and they need it quickly. Finding one may be the difference between winning and not tanking during some tough upcoming games.
The Wizards, now 6-5 for the season, will try to forget about this game as they get set for theCharlotte Hornets tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Time Warner Cable Arena.