Despite playing without three injured starters, Washington managed to stay close until late in the fourth quarter before Danny Granger and the Pacers finally pulled away for a 93-85 victory Saturday night.
Granger scored 11 of his 25 points in the final period, including a 3-pointer that gave the Pacers an 87-79 lead with 3 minutes left.
“Sometimes, when teams are missing their best players, they come out for a short period of time and play better,” Granger said. “We were prepared for that.”
“We have to live through it,” Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. “We have to do the things we’re supposed to do with the people that are healthy, and let the winning and losing take care of itself.”
“It was a grind-it-out win,” Indiana coach Jim O’Brien said. “I don’t care who the other team has or doesn’t have—we’ve got to win.”
Trailing by seven entering the fourth quarter, the Wizards used a 9-0 run to tie it at 70 with 8 minutes remaining. The Pacers responded by scoring the next seven points, including a 3-pointer by Granger.
Washington cut it to 84-79 later in the period, but Granger’s 3-pointer and O’Neal’s jumper pushed the lead back to 10 with 3 minutes left.
“Danny did a great job making some big-time shots,” O’Neal said.
Jordan didn’t take any solace in the Wizards’ effort.
“We don’t want to keep it close—we want to win the game,” he said. “We just couldn’t get over the top.”
Rush scored 12 points in the second quarter to help Indiana take a 45-34 lead at halftime.
Washington fought back in the third, cutting it to 61-60 on Jamison’s layup late in the period. The Pacers answered with the next seven points, including five by O’Neal.
O’Neal said Indiana was eager to get back on the court following a disappointing loss at Minnesota on Friday.
“It’s more about trying to be consistent, that’s where we are right now,” he said. “We play very well against teams that are very good, and play poorly against teams that have struggled. In order for us to be good down the stretch run, we have to figure out how to do away with the bad losses.”
Mason, who was making his second start of the season, arrived in Indianapolis about two hours before the game after attending his grandfather’s funeral Saturday morning in Washington. “It was definitely a tough, emotional day for me and my family, but I have great teammates and they let me decide if I wanted to come out,” he said. “I felt like doing it because that’s what my grandfather would want me to do.” … Pacers C David Harrison (back spasms) did not play. … The Pacers improved to 7-2 in the second game of back-to-backs. They lost 131-118 at Minnesota on Friday. … Washington lost its third straight game following a four-game win streak. … Midway through the third quarter, a fan ran onto the court as the Pacers were about to inbound the ball under their own basket. The fan, who disrupted play for a couple minutes, tried to avoid security by running around the court, but was finally tackled by several arena workers. “I haven’t seen anything like that in a long time,” Jordan said. “It’s a dangerous situation … you just don’t know what his intent was. Anything could have happened.”