Wizards keep pressure on to dominate PacersThe youthful Washington Wizards showed no signs of wilting in the heat of the playoffs as they beat the top-seeded Indiana Pacers 102-96 in their Eastern Conference second-round series opener on Monday.
Second-year guard Bradley Beal scored a team-high 25 points, Trevor Ariza made all six of his 3-pointer attempts for 22 and the Wizards drew first blood on the road in the best-of-seven series.
Washington turned heads when they beat the Chicago Bulls in just five games in the first round of the postseason. They are playing in the second round for the first time since 2005.
“We feel like we’re capable of winning when we play our style of basketball,” Ariza told reporters.
“We hadn’t won [in Indiana] in a while, why wouldn’t this be the best time to come in and get a win?”
The Pacers needed to win the full seven games to survive and advance against eighth seed Atlanta in the opening round but Atlanta again suffered from inconsistency.
Paul George, who led the charge with 30 points in Indiana’s Game 7 triumph Saturday, was off his game against the Wizards, scoring 18 points on 4-for-17 shooting.
George Hill tallied 18 points for the Pacers but they couldn’t catch up after Washington’s hot start, with the Wizards leading 28-15 after the first quarter.
Washington, who will stay in Indiana for Game 2 on Wednesday, pounded the Pacers inside where they won the rebound count 53-36.
Center Marcin Gortat finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds, while Drew Gooden contributed 12 and 13 rebounds for the Wizards.
Conversely, Indiana’s Roy Hibbert, who has been in disappointing form in the postseason, did not record a point or rebound in 18 minutes.
“We can’t put ourselves in these corners. We should learn from the first series,” George said.
“It’s going to be a tough series for us, but we can’t allow ourselves to be put in these holes.”