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Pacers end Wizards' win streak 123-106: Five takeaways


Pacers end Wizards' win streak 123-106: Five takeaways

As much as the Wizards want to play fast, the Pacers want to play just as fast and they did it better Tuesday night. Paul George and C.J. Miles dominated the action from the opening tip, converting a combined 15 of 17 three-point attempts to end Washington's three-game winning streak, at Verizon Center.

Miles had his season high (22 points) at halftime when he made all six of his threes and finished with 32 points on 10 of 16 shooting, draining 8 of 9 from long range. George was near flawless with a season-high 40 points on 14 of 19 shooting, including 7 of 8 three-pointers. George Hill had 14 points and Monta Eillis 10 as the Pacers (9-5) overcame 20 turnovers.

The Wizards (6-5) led 42-35 in the second quarter when Ramon Sessions broke away on a steal for a dunk but trailed 62-61 at halftime as even Rodney Stuckey and Chase Budinger drained threes.

John Wall, who was a non-factor in the second half, had 18 points and just five assists. Bradley Beal had 20 points and Gary Neal a season-high 23 off the bench. They also had 21 turnovers, something they avoided during the win streak. 

The teams combined for 32 made three-pointers, a franchise record for two teams in a Wizards game.

  • Otto Porter picked up three fouls in the first half, having to scramble to defend George who was on fire. Carmelo Anthony torched the Wizards for 37 points as he was too big and strong for Porter. George's strikes were just too quick. Kris Humphries started at power forward, but style-wise he wasn't the right fit for this game. He played just five minutes in the first half until coach Randy Wittman pulled him for Jared Dudley at 7:05 of the first quarter. When the Pacers went with Jordan Hill and Lavoy Allen in the fourth quarter, Humphries made it back on the floor for four minutes. He didn't score for the second game in a row and missed his only shot. 

  • The Wizards had an advantage with Marcin Gortat and Nene in the low post but weren't able to exploit it as much as they'd hoped because of the small-ball tempo. The Pacers only have Ian Mahinmi and Hill, neither of whom can guard either big. Still, Gortat had a complete stat line (10 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals) and so did Nene off the bench (11 points, seven rebounds and four assists). 

  • Beal's aggressive streak returned, playing in his second game back from a left shoulder contusion. He launched 12 shots in the first half alone to score 15 points and keep the Wizards from being blown out. But he turned ice cold in the second half. The open looks from three were there, but when the game ended he was just 2 of 8 from deep. He shot 2 of 10 in the second half.

  • The second unit continues to be consistent, coming off three games in which they contributed 30, 46 and 51 points in wins. In this one, they generated 51 points. Temple had a rebound of Gortat's missed foul shot and a putback to trim the deficit to 81-77. He had a strip of Stuckey that disrupted a possession but Miles launched a three from deep for a unbelievable make, his seventh in eight tries at that point. It was that kind of night. The bench didn't have the same spark late, but they did more than their job. It's on the starters for not closing out. 

  • When Wall starts making risky passes, the Wizards' turnovers skyrocket. He had eight in this one, three to start the second half when they had a chance to make a run out of the locker room because Indiana also was sloppy with the ball. He made a one-handed, high-risk pass to Porter to put the Pacers in transition -- and it resulted in Porter's third foul to send him to the bench. Porter never got in sync, only playing 25 minutes.

[RELATED: Bradley Beal adjusts to protection on left shoulder]

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young to enter NBA Draft

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Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young to enter NBA Draft

After a sensational freshman season at the University of Oklahoma, point guard Trae Young plans to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, according to a report by ESPN.

Young will be one of the most fascinating prospects in this class given the extreme highs and lows of his one college season. He vaulted into the top 10 in most mock drafts after beginning his freshman year on fire, but then began to slip over the final months as his shooting percentage dropped.


Right now the Wizards are lined up to be in the late teens, so it's unlikely he falls to their range. But at this point it's difficult to predict where he will go, whether that is top five or later in the lottery.

It really could go either way. Some teams may see him as a Steph Curry-like scorer who can hit shots from unusually deep range. There were certainly times where Young backed up those comparisons.

Teams could see his flaws as a result of opposing defenses honing in on him because they could at the college level. In the NBA he may have more space and therefore be able to play to his strengths.


Or, teams could look at the fact he shot 36.1 percent from three on a whopping 10.2 attempts per game as a sign he is a chucker. He also led the nation in turnovers, commiting 24 more than the next guy. Young averaged 5.2 giveaways per game.

While Curry is the best-case scenario, Jimmer Fredette may be the worst-case. Fredette was the 10th overall pick in 2011 and now plays in China. 

Young will be an intriguing prospect in the draft because the ceiling is high and the basement is low. 

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