It was a back-and-forth matchup Wednesday between two teams that significantly altered their rosters at the trade deadline. Both sides needed to shake up their personnel following a tumultuous start to the season, but after 48 minutes in Indianapolis, the Indiana Pacers edged the Washington Wizards, 113-108.
With the away side sans Bradley Beal, who will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, forward Kyle Kuzma logged his 22nd double-double of the season with 26 points and 15 rebounds.
But even with a prolific offensive night from Kuzma and a game-high 27 from guard Kentavuous Calwell-Pope, who brought energy and hustle to the affair, Washington fell to 26-31 as Indiana ended its seven-game losing streak and improved to 20-40.
The visitors made things interesting in the final frame, cutting the lead to one point with about five minutes to go, but Indiana’s dominance in the paint proved the difference Wednesday evening; the Pacers outscored the Wizards 74-36 down low as head coach Wes Unseld Jr. rolled with a small-ball lineup for a majority of the night.
Although they only trailed by five points at the half, Caldwell-Pope and company fell to 12-23 when down after two. The Pacers shook off a rough first half in which they went 2-for-13 from three to outpace their opponents at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
The fire of Lance Stephenson, who returned to Indiana after several years playing professionally abroad, must have rubbed off on his teammates Wednesday night. It didn't matter if you were on the floor or watching from the sidelines, if you were wearing a navy Pacers uniform, you were dancing, hopping or skipping following big plays.
While the hosts looked loose and confident, the visitors never grabbed hold of the game. With the newly-acquired Kristaps Porzingis looking on from the bench, the Wizards fell to a Pacers team that previously has struggled in close games.
Outside of Caldwell-Pope and Kuzma, forward Deni Avdija poured in 14 points off the bench, while guards Raul Neto and Ish Smith bagged 10 points apiece.
On the opposite end, Indianapolis had six double-digit scorers, headlined by guard Tyrese Haliburton, who, in just his third game with the Pacers after being traded from the Sacramento Kings at the deadline, notched 21 points and a game-high 14 assists. Rookie Terry Taylor added 18 points and nine rebounds for the home team.
The Wizards head straight to Brooklyn for a Thursday-evening meeting with the Nets in the team’s final contest before the All-Star break, with play resuming on Feb. 25.