Play-in Preview: Washington Wizards should feel confident vs. Indiana Pacers despite first-round loss

Washington Wizards. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizards. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

This is why winning the regular-season finale vs. the Charlotte Hornets and getting the eighth seed was so important for the Washington Wizards. Despite their utterly disappointing 118-100 loss to the Boston Celtics in the first round of the play-in tournament, the Wizards still have a chance to clinch the East’s final playoff spot. They just need to take care of business against the Indiana Pacers…again.

The worst-case scenario for this Wizards season would be to battle this close to the playoffs only to come up short by losing back-to-back play-in games. Even though the Pacers are coming off a 27-point victory in the first round while the Wizards are reeling from an 18-point loss, it’s the Wizards who should feel confident heading into this one.

The Washington Wizards have dominated the Indiana Pacers all season long. If they do it again, they will finally punch their playoff ticket.

The Wizards swept the Pacers during the regular season. All season long, the Pacers had no answers for Bradley Beal or Russell Westbrook. The two dominated against Indiana. Here’s a look at what the pair averaged vs. the Pacers this season…

  • Beal (2 games): 38 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, 54.5 FG%
  • Westbrook (3 games): 27.3 points, 18 rebounds, 20 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks, 50 FG%

The Washington Wizards will have the two best players on the court when Beal and Westbrook are out there together. And as long as even one of them is playing, the Wizards will always have the best player on the floor.

Domantas Sabonis in an All-Star and had a great game in the first round of the play-in vs. the Hornets (14 points, 21 rebounds, nine assists), but he’s not on Beal’s level, and he’s not on Westbrook’s, either.

However, the Wizards will need more than just their stars to avoid another loss. We saw vs. Boston how ugly things can get when the stars aren’t at their best and not getting any help.

Luckily, Rui Hachimura was also impressive against the Pacers this season, averaging 22.0 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 53.6 percent from the field. This season, the only team he averaged more points per game against was Milwaukee (2 games, 25.5 points per). Daniel Gafford has also feasted vs. Indiana, averaging 10.7 points while shooting 81.3 percent against them this season. If Westbrook and Beal are off, there are guys who have proven they can get it done against this opponent. The Wizards do have one win vs. Indiana this season without Beal, but the Wizards will definitely be better off with him out there, preferably healthy.

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After missing three of the final four games of the regular season and looking obviously off in the finale vs. Charlotte, Beal started looking more like himself in the second quarter vs. Boston, scoring 11 points on five of seven shooting. Beal was hot, and the Wizards were up at the half. Then everything fell apart.

It would have been nice for the Wizards to get some time off by getting a win over Boston and clinching the seventh seed. The last time the Wizards had two or more days off was March 19 and 20. With Beal banged up, extra rest would have been especially valuable. Luckily, neither he nor Raul Neto, who is also coming off a recent injury-related absence, suffered any setbacks in the loss to Boston.

The Wizards will be a little banged up heading into the biggest game of the season. Beal is nursing a hamstring; Neto, too; and Rusell Westbrook left the Celtics game early but downplayed any possible issues to just “nicks and bruises.” However, the Pacers are worse off. In the win over Charlotte, Jeremy Lamb, Caris LeVert, Myles Turner, and T.J. Warren were all sidelined while many other key contributors were questionable.

The early reports are that Indiana will be without LeVert again, while Malcolm Brogdon — who played in their win over Charlotte — remains questionable.

No matter who’s on the injury report, the Wizards have proven they can beat the Pacers. The last game wasn’t a great one, but the Wizards should still feel confident in this win-or-go-home matchup.

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