WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal delivered a strong game, the AARP unit had a couple of major runs and the defense forced 18 turnovers, but it wasn't enough as the Wizards lost a pivotal Game 4 to the Pacers on Sunday night, 95-92.
The team's season is officially on the brink with the Eastern Conference Semifinal series headed back to Indiana for Game 5.
A loss on Mother's Day is painful no matter what, but this will be especially hard to stomach considering how it happened: given a chance to tie with 6.1 seconds left, the Wiz couldn't even complete the in-bound pass, letting it bounce into the backcourt for a turnover.
Instead of getting a chance to force overtime, the crowd slowly slipped out as the final 1.7 seconds melted off the clock.
For a team that's often been characterized as green -- mostly the result of an exciting, young backcourt -- it was the veterans who rode in to dictate the tone after a shaky first quarter. The AARP unit -- led by veterans Andre Miller, Al Harrington and Drew Gooden -- could be a new weapon for Washington going forward, not that we're particularly surprised by the whole development.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough even after some impressive runs, the first of which put the team ahead by as many as 19 in the second quarter.
As we've seen countless times this season, the opponent wore its way back into the game. The Wizards got outscored 33-17 in the third quarter, with Roy Hibbert and Paul George leading a major attack. Those two combined for all 18 of Indiana's points over the final five minutes of the period.
George ended up finishing with 39 points on 12-of-20 shooting and 12 rebounds -- the kind of marquee, elite performance we haven't seen as much from the All-Star recently. Hibbert, meanwhile, recorded 17 points and nine rebounds in 39 minutes.
As for the Wizards' star player, the questions surrounding John Wall and his eye issues will only get louder after this loss. The point guard scored just 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting, and, outside of an acrobatic, behind-the-back finish to end the first half, he often looked hesitant and deferred rather than attack.
It's precisely what we hoped not to see from the team's most important player in Game 4. Some of those passed up three-pointers and opportunities at the rim likely cost the Wizards a win on Sunday.
All of it wouldn't have been nearly as painful if the starting bigs didn't struggle as well. The Wizards have survived a number of inconsistent games from Wall in this postseason, but that's typically been the result of Nene, Marcin Gortat or someone else stepping up.
On Sunday, that extra effort came from the bench instead of the starting lineup. Nene was mostly off, scoring 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting, while Gortat was simply non-existent. The Polish big man basically pulled a Hibbert in this one, going for two points on 1-of-3 shooting and three rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
That put a lot of pressure on the bench bigs to step up, but Harrington and Gooden did just that to keep things close. During pivotal stretches in the second and fourth quarters, those two veterans were integral to everything Washington did on both ends. The duo eventually combined for 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting, and Gooden took Gortat's spot in the lineup as the game wound down.
Drew went quiet during those key waning moments, though, and it was clear the Wizards lacked a major presence in the post.
Beal had a solid game for Washington, recording 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals, but along with Ariza, they were the only bright spots among the starting lineup. For a team built like Washington, that's pretty much a deadly proposition.
So now the Wizards trail in the series, 3-1. It will take three straight victories to keep the run going. We'll see how much optimism remains after this one.