All the fire and energy that powered the Washington Wizards through Game 5 seemed lost Thursday night as the Wiz Kids fell 93-80 to the Indiana Pacers in an elimination game at home to end their playoff run.
Marcin Gortat came nowhere close to his career high playoff points this time around, but he did lead the Wizards’ scoring efforts with 19 points. Bradley Beal and Nene added 16 and 15, respectively, and John Wall rounded out the double-digits club with a mere 12 points as Washington’s 39.2 percent field goal percentage proved too low to pose a threat.
Indiana jumped to an early – yet surmountable – lead early in the first quarter, but Lance Stephenson and David West helped the Pacers to a 29-23 lead in the first 12 minutes of play.
The Pacers continued to tack onto their lead in the second quarter, largely with the help of nine free baskets off poorly timed Washington fouls.
The Wizards regained just a bit of momentum in the third quarter as the Gortat-Beal duo breathed life back into the offense. The two combined for the Wizards’ first eight points of the quarter in under three minutes before Nene added a free throw and Wall sank a two.
But, West continued to pester Washington with back-to-back baskets before George Hill’s three gave Indiana a 67-55 lead with 4:26 remaining in the third. Washington trimmed the deficit to 10 on free throws before Trevor Ariza and Drew Gooden added a pair of baskets to help the Wizards climb back within eight points.
For a brief moment in time, Washington actually regained the lead in the fourth by way of two Gortat free throws, a pair of baskets by Wall, and two long jumpers – including a lead-changing three-pointer – from Beal.
With the next shot, however, West regained the lead for the Pacers. From there, Indiana continued to outrun the Wizards – so much so that Washington endured a stretch of more than five minutes without a basket in the fourth. West and Stephenson took advantage of the slow-to-awaken offense to help the Pacers to their 93-80 win.
“We’re definitely disappointed,” Beal said after the game. “This loss hurts more than anything just knowing that it all just came to an end just like that. But at the same time, nobody really thought we would be this far. For us to actually make it here and for us to believe in ourselves and make Indiana earn it, we should be proud of ourselves and there’s nothing we should hang our head about.”
“Nobody expected us to be here,” Wall said. “I just want to thank God for giving me this opportunity to be here and compete as a team. Like [Beal] said, I think we got a lot of effort from a lot of teams. I think a lot of teams respect us now. We definitely made Indiana earn it. Give them a lot of credit for coming out and just giving us a lot of experience to know what it takes to win and compete, and close out games and get to the next level. We just want to say thanks to everybody that supported us, and our family, friends, the organization and definitely our fans.”
The loss makes further evident the Wizards’ playoff struggles at home. The end of their run caps off a 1-4 record at the Verizon Center – compared with a 5-1 record on the road this postseason.
“We have to look on the flip side of it and the things that we did on the road is a huge step for this team,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. “There is no question you have to take care of home and that is the next step. I mean we win 44 games and we win more games on the road than we do at home. You even take a little bit of care at home and you are at 50 you are at 52 and that is the next step we got to take. Continue to be what we were on the road this year. Take care of home and continue to grow.”