The Indiana Pacers try to snap a four-game losing streak when they host the Washington Wizards, Monday in Indianapolis.
Indiana dropped the first two games of a six-game homestand with losses Dec. 1 to Atlanta, 114-111, and on Friday to Miami, 113-104. The two defeats extended a losing streak that equals the Pacers’ longest of the season.
The early-season downturn prompted Indiana to hold what Malcolm Brogdon told the Indianapolis Star was an especially intense practice on Sunday.
“It was honestly like a training camp practice. We went hard,” Brogdon said. “And I think that’s what we needed. We just gotta come out and compete, man. We gotta play with desperation on a high level.”
Washington spent its Sunday on the first half of a back-to-back, losing at Toronto, 102-90. The defeat was the Wizards’ second straight and third over the last four games.
Washington scored just 12 first-quarter points and trailed by as many as 25 points in the first half. It was the second straight game the Wizards dug an early hole and failed to recover, going down 19 points at halftime of their 116-101 loss to Cleveland on Friday.
“Minimizing empty possessions,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said was the takeaway from the two sluggish starts. “We have to do a better job of being organized. I think it’s finding the balance between paint attacks, the quick shots and I think there’s a time and place for both.
“Once those shots don’t start to fall, I think we start pressing a bit,” Unseld added. “And you start looking for that one big shot, that one big play. Once again when that play doesn’t go, it puts more pressure on that very next possession.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 26 points including 4-of-4 shooting from 3-point range against the Raptors, but Bradley Beal at 14 points was the only other Wizard to score in double figures.
Spencer Dinwiddie’s nine-point performance marked his third straight single-digit game. Kyle Kuzma, who also finished with nine points on Sunday, has scored below his 13.0-point per game average for a third consecutive contest.
Finding consistent scoring threats is a challenge for Washington since a hot start to the season. Beal is the only Wizard averaging more than 16.2 points per game.
Monday’s visit to Indiana is the middle game of a three-game road trip.
Washington and Indiana last faced on opening weekend when the Wizards won 135-134 in overtime. Dinwiddie scored 34 points in that Oct. 22 Washington victory and Kyle Kuzma scored 26 points to counter Myles Turner’s 40 points for Indiana.
Turner missed the Pacers’ Nov. 29 loss at Minnesota due to a non-COVID illness, and returned to the lineup with 17 and 20 points in the last two.
“Eventually, you got to put your foot down and do something about it,” Turner said of the losing streak in his press conference following Friday’s contest. “We can’t be an organization or a team that accepts mediocrity. And that’s what we’ve been playing like. So we got to up the ante, somehow, some way.”
–Field Level Media