Defense was optional in the Wednesday night season opener between the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers. The Wiz did not pick up said option in the 143-120 loss at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Washington at least got the scoring started early. The good guys raced to a 12-4 lead thanks to some active play from $55 million man Deni Avdija. Offseason additions Tyus Jones and Danilo Gallinari combined for 22 points on a perfect 9/9 shooting to keep the Wizards up 39-34 after one.
In the 2nd, it was Kyle Kuzma who led the offense with 11 of his 16 first-half points. But after Washington led 42-37 two minutes into the quarter, the Pacers’ offense began to heat up. Indiana went on a 25-12 run in the next 7 minutes, capped off by a Bruce Brown triple at the 3:30 mark of Q2. The Wizards trailed 73-68 at the half.
The Wizards’ game defensive game plan continued to unravel in the second half. The Pacers took an 82-72 lead after an Obi Toppin dunk at the 10:11 mark of the 3rd. Washington did not show much life after that. They trailed by double-digits the rest of the way in the 23-points defeat.
Kuzma led all scorers with 25 points on 50% shooting. Jordan Poole began his Wizards career with 18 points and 5 assists, but missed all six of his attempts from distance. Jones and Gallinari each added 16 points.
Bruce Brown led Indiana with 24 points, while Tyrese Haliburton poured in 20 points and 11 assists for the winning side. The Wiz allowed 8 different Pacers to score in double figures.
Bilal Coulibaly also made his NBA debut on Wednesday. The 19-year-old made history as the youngest player in Wizards history to play in a home opener.
His youth certainly showed as he finished with just 3 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 turnovers in 23 minutes.
Coulibaly was understandably passive in his first contest, which led to some careless turnovers and just 3 field goal attempts. But he did tally 3 blocks on the night, including an impressive stop on the break against Haliburton.
It’s clear that the Wizards’ 2023 lottery pick still has a long way to go.