“Basketball is a game of runs.” Anyone with even a passing familiarity with basketball has heard the phrase.
But when parsed literally, the idiom sort of falls apart. Of course basketball is a game of runs — if it were not so, the two teams would just alternate baskets and whoever took the final shot would win. To be fair, most people who use the phrase mean something more like, “You can expect each team to put together at least a few good stretches of play.”
By that slightly altered definition, there may be no better example that proves the rule than Washington’s 109-101 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday night. In a game that saw two lengthy, baffling runs — a 38-12 run by Indiana followed immediately by a 19-0 run by Washington — it’s clear that sometimes basketball simply comes down to whose best is better.
On this night, it was the Pacers, who pulled themselves together in the fourth quarter just enough to hold on for a win. Myles Turner scored 26 in the win, including 12 rebounds and five blocks (all in the first half). His dominant defensive play was the main catalyst for Indiana’s strong play.
In a losing effort, Bradley Beal was solid, if inaccurate, from the field. His 30 points paced the Wizards on a night when John Wall (and later Otto Porter Jr.) sat due to injury. Kelly Oubre Jr. was fabulous in his own right, tying his season-high of 23 points in the loss along with three steals.
The game began with some line-up uncertainty with both Wall and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo out for the night. Austin Rivers started in Wall’s place, while Tyreke Evans continued his run in the starting line-up for the Pacers. Indiana jumped out to a 7-0 lead seemingly within seconds of tip-off, but the Wizards quickly came back with a seven-point run of their own to tie the game. This, ladies and gentlemen, was what we in the business call “foreshadowing.”
In the first quarter, Darren Collison led a strong start for the Indiana offense. He tallied seven assists in the first period by repeatedly gashing the Wizards in the pick-and-roll and in transition. Collison would end up with 17 assists for the game, his best total on the season, to go with 10 points and seven rebounds. A strong team-wide shooting performance on the other end, however, helped the Wizards lead 33-29 heading into the second quarter.
Oubre Jr. scored eight of the Wizards’ first 10 points of the second quarter, providing much-needed offense during an otherwise dry spell. His presence would only grow larger over the course of the game, as the broadcast learned at the three-minute mark of the third quarter that Porter Jr. would not return with a knee contusion suffered early on. With Otto out, the Wizards were down to just nine available players. It certainly didn’t help matters that Markieff Morris and Ian Mahinmi spent the entire game in foul trouble.
Among other notable plays in the first half, Myles Turner completely erased two Bradley Beal attempts at the rim. Those were just two of Turner’s uncharacteristic five first-half rejections, including a stretch toward the end of the first half when he blocked three shots in four Wizards possessions. That was a big part of the wheels coming off for Washington, who surrendered a 10-0 Indiana run during the spell and went into the half trailing 59-50.
Bradley Beal attempted to challenge Myles Turner at the rim. He chose poorly. pic.twitter.com/vegvbM7k1l— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) December 11, 2018
Indiana continued its dominant stretch of play in the third quarter. Strong defense and some timely threes extended the Pacers’ lead first into double digits, then to 15, 18, 20, 23 and finally 26 points on a Turner three-pointer with four minutes left in the third. Though the Wizards once led 50-49, the Pacers’ 38-12 run completely wrested control of the game in their favor. Indiana then led 87-62, and Porter Jr.’s absence forced Scott Brooks to send Sam Dekker into the game for his first action as a Wizard. And then everything changed... again.
The Wizards came right back with an absurd run of their own. Washington completely shut down the Pacers for the final four minutes of the quarter, holding them scoreless and cutting the 25-point lead to just 12 at the quarter’s conclusion. The run even continued into the fourth quarter, ultimately stretching all the way to a 19-0 streak for Washington. Though Turner stopped the bleeding with a two-point basket, Oubre Jr. immediately pulled it back to a five-point deficit with a ferocious—and hilariously celebrated—put-back dunk.
put this in a Smithsonian pic.twitter.com/8CgGAX3Flj— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) December 11, 2018
During the stretch, Washington showed some of its best defensive effort of the season. Indiana committed 11 second-half turnovers and few of those miscues were due to honest mistakes. No, the Wizards were forcing every turnover. In the passing lanes, in ball-handlers’ shirts, and everywhere else, the Wizards played on a string defensively and wrenched themselves back into the game.
Indiana’s turnover fest continued into the late game, and two Beal free throws actually cut the lead to one point at 98-97 with just under five minutes to play. Unfortunately for Washington, a bold Collison three then extended the Pacers’ advantage back to four points and the Wizards failed to cut the lead any closer than two for the remainder of the game.
Though a missed Tomas Satoransky three that could’ve brought the Wizards back within one with a minute to play, Washington eventually lost by eight.
Sam Dekker, Plus-Minus God
Sam Dekker played just 10 minutes in his Wizards debut, but his 10 minutes encapsulated nearly the entire Wizards run back into the game. He finished the game scoring just two points, but was a plus-20 because of his defensive effort and willingness to move the ball on the break. It’s unreasonable to ask for Dekker to have such a big impact on the team moving forward (and hopefully he doesn’t have to), but his energy and athleticism could become a welcome presence on a team that sorely lacks both.
It Doesn’t Have To Be Like This
Why do the Wizards have to get completely pantsed before they start giving effort like this? What a joy to watch.— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) December 11, 2018