Wizards win 4th in row, top Pacers 96-94 in OT
WASHINGTON — Down by two to the Washington Wizards in overtime, with a chance to break a three-game losing streak, the depleted Indiana Pacers called timeout and opted to set up a 3-point attempt.
The flaw in the plan: 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert ended up taking it.
“Go for the win,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said, “doesn’t mean Roy go for the win.”
Hibbert’s first 3-point shot of the season was off the mark, and Chris Copeland couldn’t convert the offensive rebound as time expired, giving the Wizards a 96-94 win Wednesday night and the Pacers their worst five-game start since the 1990s.
Hibbert was supposed to set a screen to free Copeland in the corner, but the Wizards defended the play well.
“I saw the ball come to me, so I had to shoot it,” said Hibbert, who is 6 for 21 from 3-point range in his career. “It’s not my forte.”
John Wall had seven of his 31 points in overtime for the Wizards, who blew a 12-point, second-half lead before winning their fourth straight to move three games above .500, a mark they didn’t reach until March 1 last season. They also gained a tiny measure of revenge from last season’s playoffs, when Washington lost in six games to Indiana in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
But that was a different Pacers team. This one is missing Paul George, George Hill, C.J. Watson, David West and now Rodney Stuckey due to injury and has lost four straight. The Pacers’ 1-4 record is their worst start since 1996, and last season they didn’t lose their fourth game until Dec. 16.
Donald Sloan led Wednesday’s effort with 31 points — nearly double his previous career high. Copeland added 19 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, and Solomon Hill scored a career-best 14 points.
“They’re trying to prove while these guys are hurt that they belong,” Washington forward Drew Gooden said. “And I think they did that tonight.”
Yet Indiana’s C.J. Miles was just 2 for 13 from the field, and Hibbert — one of the last season’s linchpins who is actually healthy — went 0 for 7.
“I can’t wait until everybody gets healthy,” Hibbert said.
The Wizards shot only 37 percent but made 21 of 23 free throws and had a 23-10 edge in fast-break points. They led by 12 in the third quarter, but the Pacers came back in part by dominating on the glass, grabbing 14 offensive rebounds for the game.
“We throw the first punch. … We built that lead,” Wizards center Marcin Gortat said. “We relaxed again too much.”
Pacers: Stuckey will miss at least three games after aggravating a strained tendon in his left foot. Already without George (broken leg), Hill (bruised knee), Watson (bruised foot) and West (sprained ankle), Indiana received a hardship exception to sign Israeli G Gal Mekel. … Sloan’s previous career high was 16 in last week’s season-opening win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Wizards: Paul Pierce finally scored a field goal at home. He was 0 for 3 from the field when he was ejected for picking up two technical fouls just before halftime in the home opener on Saturday, and was 0 for 3 again on Wednesday before hitting a 20-foot step-back jumper, again just before halftime. Pierce otherwise struggled, shooting 3 for 15 and scoring 11 points, and he missed a jumper that would have won the game in regulation.
The rebounding discrepancy wasn’t the only thing that concerned Washington coach Randy Wittman.
“The 50-50 balls, we got none,” Wittman said. “I just thought they beat us on the hustle points there.”
Playing in their college arena, former Georgetown standouts Hibbert and Washington’s Otto Porter (1 for 5) combined to go 1 for 12 from the field.
Pacers: Visit Boston on Friday.
Wizards: Visit Toronto on Friday.
*Photo courtesy of Rob Carr/Getty Images