Wizards 98, Pacers 95
A surge in the final minutes lifted the Wizards to a 98-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night. The victory gave Washington the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, and the Wizards will play No. 2 Cleveland in the first round.
Indiana will sit at home for the first time in a decade.
“For us, it was very important,” said Antawn Jamison, who led the Wizards (41-41) with 19 points and 11 rebounds. “It’s good for our psyche and it’s good for us to go into the playoffs with some type of momentum.”
The Pacers (35-47) ended one of their most disappointing seasons in years. The Pacers were 29-24 on Feb. 21, but then lost 11 games in a row to fall out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference. A loss to Detroit on April 3 clinched the Pacers’ first losing season in a decade. The Pacers were officially knocked out of the playoff picture on Sunday when Orlando beat Boston.
Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh said in a statement that he was “very disappointed with the season that concludes tonight.” Walsh said he and president of basketball operations Larry Bird will meet this week while attending the NBA Board of Governors meeting, and that he’ll meet with the team’s ownership over the weekend.
Jamison, who scored 48 points in a loss to Orlando on Tuesday night, shot just 5-for-14 from the field but went 9-for-12 from the free throw line. DeShawn Stevenson had 15 points, Antonio Daniels had 13 and Etan Thomas had 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Wizards.
Washington made 32 of 44 free throws, while the Pacers were 19-of-25. Still, Washington struggled in a game that meant nothing to the Pacers.
“I’ve been in those situations when the season is pretty much over with, but guys are playing with a lot of pride,” Jamison said. “Guys want to win their last home game, their last game, period. We knew they had some talented young guys who were going to go out there and play hard.”
Daniels’ layup gave Washington a 95-93 lead with 58 seconds to go, but Dunleavy tied the game with a bank shot with 41 seconds left.
Daniels made the second of two free throws with 30 seconds left to put the Wizards up 96-95.
Ike Diogu could have given the Pacers the lead, but he missed two free throws with 25 seconds to go, and Daniels grabbed the rebound. Washington’s Darius Songaila made two free throws with 17 seconds left to bump the lead to 98-95. Indiana had a chance to tie, but Stevenson intercepted a desperation pass by Danny Granger, and the Wizards ran out the clock.
Conseco Fieldhouse was only about half-filled at tip-off, and the fans watched the Pacers close the season with their fourth straight loss.
“We battled like crazy, and we couldn’t quite get over the hump, which is kind of how it’s been this year,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said.
The Wizards now will focus on Cleveland and star forward LeBron James.
“They had a great season, and it’s going to be a tough matchup, but we’re looking forward to it” Washington forward Jarvis Hayes said. “Ever since we lost both of our All-Stars, it’s definitely been tough. We just have to get guys in the right spots and come out fighting.”
Jamison likes the role of underdog.
“There’s no pressure at all,” Jamison said. “People aren’t expecting us to win the series—I don’t think people are expecting us to win a game. For us, I love being the spoiler, and I love having fun.”
There was a moment of silence before the game in remembrance of those killed in Monday’s shooting rampage at Virginia Tech. … Arenas, who torched the Pacers for 37.5 points and 6.0 assists per game in two meetings this season, was out with a lateral meniscus tear. … Indiana C Jeff Foster sat out with a sprained left ankle. … Wednesday’s game marked the first time that all four players Indiana acquired in the January trade with Golden State started together.