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Wizards-Pacers preview: Golden opportunity for Washington


Wizards-Pacers preview: Golden opportunity for Washington

Matchup: Washington Wizards (30-31) vs. Indiana Pacers (32-30)

When: Saturday, 7 p.m. (CSN+ and live streaming online at CSNmidatlantic.com via NBC Sports Live Extra)

Season series: Series tied 1-1. Saturday's game will be the final meeting of the season between these two teams. 

Last meeting: Wizards won 118-104 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Jan. 15

What to know:

Hung over? Both the Wizards and Pacers are coming off road losses last night, so fatigue could be a big factor come game time. Washington's starters barely played in the fourth quarter of a 108-83 blowout in Cleveland. In fact, no Wizard played more than 28 minutes. That doesn't mean the back-to-back will be easy, though, as John Wall could still be smarting from landing awkwardly on his ankle in the third. He's expected to play.

Indy, on the other hand, lost a close one to the Hornets 108-101. That meant all five starters logged at least 30 minutes, with George Hill cracking 40. Add to that more travel and the Pacers could find themselves with heavy legs down the stretch tonight. That's trouble for a team that has lost all seven games on the second night of a back-to-back on the road. 

New additions: Though Washington and Indiana have already met twice this season, they're not as familiar with each other's rosters as you might expect. That's because the Wizards now have Markieff Morris (acquired in a trade for Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair) and Alan Anderson (returned from injury). The Pacers are in the process of signing free agent point guard Ty Lawson, but that deal won't get done in time for him to debut at Verizon Center. 

At 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds, Morris adds physicality and aggressiveness to Washington's defense. That will be especially important tonight as he and Garrett Temple try to guard Pacers All-Star Paul George.

Anderson is capable of sparking the Washington offense off the bench. He hung 18 points on the Timberwolves this week by hitting 4 of his 7 three-point attempts. 

Indiana's roster might not present new challenges, but the Wizards haven't exactly gotten a handle on the familiar one: George. In two games against Washington this season, the Pacers' leading scorer has averaged 30.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists. 

Closing the gap: The race for the final playoffs spots in the Eastern Conference is incredibly close. The 32-30 Pacers might be in 7th place right now, but they're only 1.5 games up on the 10th place Wizards.

The outcome of tonight's matchup will be critical for both teams' postseason hopes because the victor will hold a 2-1 advantage in the series, a valuable tie-breaker should Washington and Indiana finish the regular season with the same record. 

Complicating matters, both 8th place Detroit and 9th place Chicago play tonight. If both of those teams lose and Washington wins, the Wizards could move into a tie with the Pistons for 8th in the East. 

It should be an eye-opening evening. 

MORE WIZARDS: Gortat gets Wizards fans excited for Polish Heritage Night

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Important victory: Saturday night's game between the Wizards and Pacers had several layers of playoff implications on the line and it was Washington who rose to the occasion and showed the urgency commensurate for the stakes.

By beating the Pacers, the Wizards locked up the season series between the teams, two games to one. That gives them the tiebreaker for playoff seeding if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. That could very well prove paramount. As of now, the Wizards and Pacers have the same record (40-30) with 12 games to go.

The season series advantage means the Wizards are above the Pacers in the standings despite having the same record. They moved into fourth place in the East with the win and the Cavs slotted back into third. There will likely be a lot more movement as these next few weeks play out, but the Wizards now hold an important edge over the Pacers.

The win also pushed the Wizards to 14-8 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. Wall could return this coming week or the week after and the Wizards have more than stayed afloat during his absence.

The Wizards' magic number to make the playoffs is now just five. 


Sato went off: The Wizards jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter mostly thanks to a hot start from Tomas Satoransky, who scored the Wizards' first five points and had 10 by the end of the first quarter.

Satoransky's floater was automatic. He dropped in several in the lane from all different angles. Satoransky was practicing the same shots, floaters off each foot, the day before in practice and it paid off.

It was a well-rounded night for Satoransky. In addition to his 12 points, he also had eight assists and five rebounds, including this one to find Marcin Gortat for the dunk:

Gortat came up big: Speaking of Gortat, the Wizards' big man had one of his best games of the season. He poured in 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists a steal and a block. Gortat shot 6-for-8, consistently having his way on the block.

The Pacers were without two of their best big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and Gortat took advantage of that. He was way too much for Al Jefferson.

The Pacers tried to roll with small-ball lineups using Trevor Booker and Thaddeus Young as their big men, but it didn't work. Gortat was too big for them and his teammates did a great job finding him for open looks.

Gortat's 18 points were his most since Jan. 3 when he had a season-high 21 against the Knicks. Lately, Gortat has seen his minutes dwindle with the increased role for Ian Mahinmi, so Saturday night must have felt good for the Polish Machine.


Bojan held in check: Bojan Bogdanovic, who spent part of last season with the Wizards, was a major factor in the first two matchups between Washington and the Pacers this season. He had 20 points in one game and 29 in another, each time getting hot from three.

The Wizards, though, made some adjustments in this one and held Bo Buckets in check. He didn't make his first shot until nearly the midway point of the second quarter and it was only because Kelly Oubre, Jr. (16 points, 18 minutes) lost his balance. Oubre stumbled backward, giving Bogdanovic a split second to get off an open three. That was the only shot he hit in the first half as he began the game 1-for-4.

Oubre did a good job harrassing Bogdanovic and not giving him space on the premiter. Otto Porter (eight points) and Bradley Beal (19 points) did as well. Both Porter and Beal stripped the ball out of Bogdanovic's hands early in the third quarter. Midway through the third, Bogdanovic got past Porter only to be called for an offensive foul on a collision with Gortat. All in all, it was a frustrating night for Bogdanovic, who had 11 points, three below his season average.

Bogdanovic is a very good shooter and when he's hot can alter games. But when you take his shots away, there's not much else he can do to hurt you. The Wizards did a good job taking away his strengths and making others beat them. Not having to focus on Turner and Sabonis certainly helped. 

Sessions is still in the rotation: It turns out those five games for Ramon Sessions over the course of his second 10-day contract weren't just an audition. Now that he has been signed for the rest of the season, Sessions is still getting the nod over Tim Frazier as the backup point guard.

Sessions logged 18 minutes and even played alongside Satoransky and Jodie Meeks in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had a sizable lead and head coach Scott Brooks decided to experiment with his lineups. That is something to keep in mind for when Wall comes back. Once he does, Sessions will be the third point guard and likely rarely see the court. But if they see something they like about him at shooting guard, that could open the door for more playing time possibilities.

Up next: The Wizards have three off-days before their next game. That will be on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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