A 13-point lead had been reduced to 71-68, Bradley Beal was out and the Wizards were struggling to find points to fend off the Indiana Pacers.
John Wall (34 points, 9 assists, 11 rebounds) came to the rescue by taking over in the third quarter by scoring 12 consecutive points en route to a 111-105 victory Wednesday at Verizon Center in front of 16,172. It is the seventh win a row at home for Washington (15-16) which is now 12-6 here.
Marcin Gortat (13 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists), Otto Porter (22 points) and Beal (12) contributed along with 18 points from the bench.
The Pacers (15-18) were led by Paul George (34 points) and Jeff Teague (19 points, 11 assists). George made it uncomfortable in the final minutes when his three-point shot cut the deficit to 96-94 but the Wizards held on. Porter’s three-pointer with 1:40 left pushed the lead to 103-98 to make it a two-possession game.
With the East loaded with teams at or just above and below .500, the Wizards are now 1-1 in their season series with the Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks; 2-1 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks and 1-0 vs. the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks.
A win Friday vs. the Brooklyn Nets would put the Wizards at .500 to end the calendar year. They’re 9-5 in December and are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the longest active home winning streak.
-- Though Myles Turner was matched up with Gortat, he’s no match for him in the low post. The last time these teams played, Gortat had 21 points and 13 rebounds as the defense focused more on the backcourt and allowed single coverage. The Wizards had a 54-34 edge in rebounding. Turner spends a lot of time on the perimeter and Pacers coach Nate McMillian even went to a big (slow) lineup of Al Jefferson and Kevin Seraphin on the floor at the same time when Wall made his 12-point run. Both are major liabilities in pick-and-roll coverage.
--Morris’ passing out of double teams has been an underrated part of his game. He accepts being trapped and is patient with how he finds the open man which usually results in the Wizards getting a quality look. Morris was stuck on the baseline and found Porter cutting, who drew a third foul on George with 3:47 left in the half. Morris (10 points, seven rebounds) was limited by foul trouble again himself.
--Beal rolled his right ankle in transition at 1:29 of the first quarter, when he made contact with Monta Ellis. Beal was able to shoot his foul shots but went to the locker room. Beal played six minutes of the second quarter and shot 1-for-3 but never looked comfortable. He had the ball in transition and had a chance to go in for a strong finish but deferred to Porter. When the Wizards came out of halftime, Sheldon McClellan started in his place. Beal was listed by the team as having a sprain with a questionable return.
--Jason Smith (seven points, seven rebounds) has continued to ride a hot streak. With Daniel Ochefu (illness) not available, Smith played 18 minutes and was vital in the pick-and-roll to help free Wall with screens. Marcus Thornton (seven points) also made key buckets to sustain them minus Beal. George, however, was able to exploit Thornton’s presence late when he ran screen-roll action with C.J. Miles, forced Porter to switch and get a matchup with the smaller guard. In the final two minutes, that advantage was taken away with Morris and Kelly Oubre.