The Indiana Pacers have been a model of consistency in the Eastern Conference over the last four seasons, but significant attrition has them on the brink of their worst start in nearly two decades.
They’ll look to end a three-game skid Wednesday night when they visit the Washington Wizards, who are trying to improve upon their best start in nine seasons.
Indiana (1-3) has reached the postseason each of the last four years while finishing first or second in the Central Division. With Paul George out indefinitely, however, it is already looking like this season might not include a playoff appearance.
The Pacers didn’t suffer their third loss last season until Dec. 8 in their 21st game, but have already matched that total with Tuesday’s 87-81 home defeat to Milwaukee.
Chris Copeland scored 10 of his team-high 19 in the third quarter, though the Pacers shot 39.7 percent. They’re struggling to find production in the backcourt with George Hill (knee) and C.J. Watson (foot) injured. Starting guards C.J. Miles and Donald Sloan were 0 for 8 and 2 for 7, respectively, Tuesday.
“My teammates have found me and I’m open, I’ve just got to knock them down,” said Miles, who has started all four games despite going 14 of 50 from the floor. “That’s pretty much it. There’s no secret to it, no science.”
Rodney Stuckey scored nine on 3-for-11 shooting after being shut out in Saturday’s loss at Atlanta. He had totaled 26 points as a reserve in the first two games.
Indiana, which is averaging 87.3 points and shooting 41.2 percent during its losing streak, hasn’t lost four of its first five since a 1-5 start in 1996-97.
“We need to play better, we know that,” said Roy Hibbert, who managed four second-half points after scoring 12 in the first half. “We haven’t put together a full game yet. It’s something we’ve got to learn from. We have the firepower to get back in the game. I just want to see everybody healthy.”
The Wizards have won three of their first four for the first time since starting 5-1 in 2005-06. Tuesday’s 98-83 victory at New York marked their third straight win as Paul Pierce and Garrett Temple scored 17 each. Reserves Andre Miller, Kevin Seraphin and Drew Gooden all reached double figures in scoring.
Carmelo Anthony was held to 18 points on 8-of-23 shooting and committed seven turnovers.
Washington was 39 of 80 from the field and is shooting 50.0 percent this season.
John Wall is shooting a career-high 45.8 percent but shot 34.0 percent in last season’s three meetings with Indiana.
The Wizards are forcing an average of 21.3 turnovers during their winning streak after tallying 14 takeaways in a season-opening loss to Miami. Indiana has been one of the league’s most turnover-prone teams with 18.3 per game.
These teams have split the last four meetings after the Pacers had won nine straight. Both clubs have scored 96 or fewer in nine of 10 matchups since Indiana’s 136-112 home win on April 6, 2011.
The Wizards are looking for their first 2-0 home start since opening 3-0 in 2006-07, while the Pacers are trying to avoid starting 0-2 on the road for the first time since 2008-09.