It’s one thing to lose to the Milwaukee Bucks or the Brooklyn Nets, two top East teams with legitimate championship aspirations, but the Wizards? With a record of 17-28, they are at the bottom of the standings. They were without All-Star Bradley Beal (an NBA-best 31.3 points per game) due to a hip injury.
Despite the fact that it was a road game, the Pacers had two days off. They haven’t won the right to turn it on whenever they want.
“They played harder,” Malcolm Brogdon said after Russell Westbrook’s triple-double of 35 points, 21 assists, and 14 rebounds. “They had more stops and made more shots.”
In the paint, the Wizards scored 74 points. That was accomplished without the presence of Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic. Alex Len and Robin Lopez, their big men, combined for 9 points to go along with Gafford’s performance.
It’s a classic case of encouraging an undermanned team to remain in the game and feel it has a chance to win. The Pacers were duped into believing that their 58-57 halftime lead was important. Despite Caris LeVert’s 3-for-14 shooting and Justin Holiday’s 3-for-11 shooting, they scored 124 points to win.
Starting with the Wizards, the Pacers’ best chance to get back above.500 and escape the play-in tournament is during this stretch. The target is still achievable, but not if we continue to play down to the competition. The Atlanta Hawks currently hold that position and are just one game ahead of the Pacers in the loss column. Playing hard, on the other hand, cannot be an option. That is the absolute minimum that should be required. Even in the face of stop signals.