The Washington Wizards lost to the Pacers 116-110 in Indiana on Monday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
Three straight Ls
Though the Wizards had already been going through a difficult stretch recently following their hot start to the season, they had through the first quarter of the year avoided losing three straight games. That was until Monday night when they fell to the Pacers, as Indiana snapped a four-game losing streak of their own to hand the Wizards their second loss in as many days.
The Wizards have now lost four of their last five games. After beginning the season 10-3, they have since gone 4-8, taking their overall record to 14-11. Though that is still a 46-win pace, things are trending in the wrong direction at the moment.
The team that could keep it rolling no matter who was in the lineup, that played defense with the best of them, is becoming a fading memory at this point. The strangest part is the same players who got the Wizards off to that start are the same ones struggling now. If anything, they are healthier than they were.
On Monday, they were missing Spencer Dinwiddie (rest), Rui Hachimura (conditioning) and Thomas Bryant (ACL rehab), but that alone doesn't explain why they are losing. In this particular game, they had major trouble on defense, as Indiana shot 52.4% from the field and 39.1% from three. The Pacers also shot 21-for-22 (95.5%) from the line.
It was another game with a poor start for the Wizards on the offensive end. After scoring only 12 points in the first quarter against the Raptors on Sunday, they weren't much better with 18 to get started on Monday. They went without a field goal for the final 3:58 of the frame, a drought that lasted a total of 5:10 and carried into the second quarter.
That's exactly what Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said they needed to avoid after Sunday's loss to Toronto. Even though they didn't go down by 25-plus points as they did in their previous two games, the early hole (17 points) was still too much to overcome. The Wizards need to start games better because far too often they are fighting an uphill battle and that's not a good position to be in especially for a team that struggles shooting from the outside.
Beal was good
Bradley Beal tends to play well on the second night of back-to-backs. If you look at his career splits, he has his highest points-per-game average (22.7), field goal percentage (46.4) and 3-point percentage (38.2) when he has zero days rest. Maybe it's because he's extra sharp, having just played a game the night before. Regardless, the trend continued on Monday in Indiana.
One day after he was held to 14 points on 33.3% shooting against the Raptors, Beal broke out with 34 points against the Pacers. He shot 12-for-19 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line. While his teammates had trouble protecting the ball, he only had one turnover. Beal had 15 points in the first half, surpassing his total from the entire game the night before, and his 34 points for the game were his most since Oct. 30.
Too many turnovers
The Wizards had shown improvement in recent games with protecting the ball. In their previous four, despite three of them being losses, the Wizards averaged just 9.3 turnovers. But against the Pacers, they had 10 in the first half alone. Though they only had two in the second half, making it 12 total for the game, the Pacers turned into 21 points on the other end.
One guy forced quite a few of those turnovers on his own. Pacers rookie Chris Duarte had four steals, including three in a span of 2:19 in the second quarter. Duarte and the Pacers were able to take advantage of the Wizards being a little too casual with some of their passes. Myles Turner also had four blocks and Caris LeVert had three.
Kispert and Bertans
Davis Bertans played just 3:23 in this game and did not appear in the second half, as he was ruled out with gastroenteritis, which is a long word for a stomach virus. Basically, he fell under the weather, so head coach Wes Unseld Jr. had to turn to rookie Corey Kispert.
Kispert gave the Wizards a lift. He hit a pair of threes, including one basically at the buzzer at the end of the third quarter, and helped the offense move with some timely cuts through the lane and to the rim. There were a few plays where he couldn't finish, but Unseld Jr. always talks about how he wants body and ball movement and Kispert can provide those things. Kispert had 10 points in 19 minutes on 4-for-6 shooting overall and 2-for-2 from deep.