The Washington Wizards clinched the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a dominant blowout victory over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday. Here are three takeaways from the game.
Thursday night was a must-win situation for both the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers. Whoever secured the victory would clinch the 8-seed in the Eastern Conference, while the loser would go home earlier than they had expected.
The Wizards defeated the Pacers in a 142-115 blowout to clinch their first playoff spot since 2018 and will now face the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. It was a totally different Washington team that lost 118-100 to the Boston Celtics this past Tuesday in the first round of the Play-In Tournament.
With the Wizards advancing and the Pacers heading home, here are three takeaways from the big game on Thursday.
3. 16-0 second-quarter run changed the game
For the better part of the first quarter and a half, the Wizards and Pacers were neck-and-neck on the scoreboard. In the second quarter, both squads were tied at 34 points apiece after Indiana’s Kelan Martin hit a 3-pointer. That was when the Wizards leaned forward in their chairs like they were playing a video game, letting the Pacers know that they are now going to really start playing.
The Wizards went on a ridiculous 16-0 run, with six of those points coming from Robin Lopez on two hook shots and a layup. The run officially reached its end on a dunk by Pacers star Domantas Sabonis.
Despite the Pacers finally getting on the board, it was essentially too late for them. The Wizards entered halftime with a 66-52 lead and scored 48 points in the third quarter upon exiting the locker room.
2. Pacers had no answer for Wizards stars
In the first round of the Play-In Tournament, the Wizards stars did not show up against the Boston Celtics. They were singlehandedly outshined by Jayson Tatum, who dropped 50 points as compared to the 22 scored by Bradley Beal and 20 put up by Russell Westbrook.
But in a do-or-die situation, both Wizards stars showed up and showed out. It was literal art, as evidenced by this tweet from Bleacher Report.
Beal scored 25 points (9-for-17 from field, 4-for-7 from 3-point line), grabbed 5 rebounds and dished out 4 assists in 28 minutes of playing time. Westbrook did miss out on a triple-double, which has become a given on a game-in, game-out basis. Through 33 minutes, Westbrook tallied 18 points (6-for-13 from field, 6-for-9 from free throw line), 15 assists and 8 rebounds.
With the Wizards up by an insurmountable lead, both Beal and Westbrook both sat out midway through the fourth quarter. If you needed further proof that Westbrook’s night was done, look no further to when he threw both of his sneakers to a young fan in the crowd and sat on the sidelines with his socks.
It was an easy night at the office for the Wizards stars.
1. Indiana’s dreadful defense
Following up on the Wizards stars shining bright, let’s talk about the Pacers and their rather dreadful defensive effort. When looking at their final score of 115, you would think it would be a close contest. Instead, it turned into a massive blowout, due to the fact that the Pacers could not block or defend anyone on the Wizards.
In total, the Wizards shot 54-for-93 from the field. That’s right, Washington shot 58.1 percent. That is simply inexcusable for an Indiana team that was looking to make its case for a playoff spot.
The Pacers had 31 defensive rebounds as opposed to the Wizards’ 45. Indiana had four blocks in total, while Washington’s Daniel Gafford tallied five alone.
With these numbers, it should come as no shock that Washington had an easy time clinching the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Indiana will need to address their defense if they want to even sniff the playoffs next year.