Pacers 109, Wizards 96
The post-trade deadline Wizards know it doesn’t matter who is injured or unavailable: Jordan Crawford will still shoot the ball with reckless abandon. But it’s the off nights for John Wall that are deflating for a team searching for positives as the season winds down.
Wall’s struggles compounded a 109-96 loss to Indiana on Wednesday in which Washington was undermanned yet again, playing without Nene and Trevor Booker, both still suffering from plantar fasciitis. The Wizards needed every bit of offense they could muster against a Pacers team that fired on all cylinders, shooting 57.9 percent from the field, the highest of any Wizards opponent all season.
But after finishing the opening quarter with as many points (three) as turnovers, Wall (13 points, three assists, five turnovers) didn’t play for the first nine and a half minutes of the second period, struggled in the third before sitting again for most of the fourth.
“I think he needs to take a step back and simplify things,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “He’s trying to maybe do too much too fast right now to fight through how he’s played the last couple games. Sometimes it’s easier to take a step back, slow down. It’s kind of what I’ve told him.”
Maintaining their hold on the third playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers (33-21) were led by 20 points from Danny Granger and couldn’t have been much hotter at the start, making 14 of 16 shots (87.5 percent) in the first quarter. But despite being up by double-digits early, they still couldn’t pull away from the Wizards (12-42) thanks to Crawford, who had 16 of his game-high 28 points in the period.
With Wall on the bench, Crawford, Kevin Seraphin (career-high 19 points, 10 rebounds) and Shelvin Mack (seven points, four assists) somehow kept pace and went into halftime down only 52-51.
Things unraveled quickly just after Crawford knowingly walked away from his jumper that gave the Wizards a 61-60 lead with 8:30 left in the third quarter. Moments later he would’ve preferred to turn away as Jan Vesely’s two handed dunk was rejected by former Georgetown center Roy Hibbert (13 points, four blocks). Vesely stole David West’s pass to get the ball back, but when it ended up in Crawford’s hands on the break, he blindly tossed into Paul George, who made a fierce block on a lob pass that went into the box score as a missed shot.
“Did it look like I shot in?” Crawford said. “I was passing it. You know, I shoot a lot so they added to the field goals.”
After fighting for second chance points after getting his layup blocked by George Hill, Wall slammed the ball in his hands and left in the middle of the floor to earn a delay of game warning. He attempted a pair of ill-advised 360-degree layups in the first and fourth quarters – one hit the front rim and the other missed the basket entirely. He also missed a three-pointer, dropping him to 3-for-34 (8.9 percent) for the season) and gotten beaten on long jumpers twice by Darren Collison (17 points, 11 assists) at the end of the third period, shots that pushed the Pacers’ lead back into double-digits, 86-74.
“I’m just playing basketball,” Wall said. “I’m just reading, taking the shots that I usually take, and being aggressive at times. Sometimes things ain’t going your way. You just gotta keep playing basketball.”
Recently acquired Brian Cook, who posted season highs of 10 points and nine rebounds, can attest.
“Everybody struggles sometimes,” Cook said. “He’s a young kid. He’s obviously a great player, and I’m sure he’ll have a better game tomorrow.”