INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Brandon Rush is finally giving Indiana more than one consistent scoring option.
Starting his third straight game, the Pacers rookie continued his late-season tear with 29 points and 10 rebounds Sunday night in a 124-115 victory over the Washington Wizards.
“It’s being comfortable and just taking shots,” Rush said. “I guess that’s coming from the extra work I’ve been putting in. Me being in the starting role right now makes me more comfortable out there and the guys are looking for me all the time. The idea is to keep it going.”
His 29 points matched the career-high he set just one day earlier at Chicago. Against the Wizards, he had 15 points in the first half and another 10 during the first seven minutes of the third quarter, when Indiana widened a 59-52 lead to 84-66. The Pacers led by 16 after the third quarter, built it to as many as 22 early in the final period and never led by fewer than nine the rest of the way. Danny Granger finished with 31 points for the Pacers.
“It definitely gives me more room because all the defenses zone in on Danny all the time,” Rush said. “Somebody else is going to have to step up.”
Rush has averaged 19 points and 6.5 rebounds over the past five games. In just the past two, his 58 points have come on 26-of-44 shooting with no turnovers over 72 minutes.
“That’s two good games for him,” said Granger, who wants to see more from his rookie teammate. “That’s what you have to expect from rookies—they are going to be up and down. But I think he’s coming along very nicely.”
Jarrett Jack added 19 points for the Pacers. Washington was led by Caron Butler with 31 points and 13 rebounds and Antawn Jamison with 29 points. Javaris Crittenton added a season-high 19 points for the Wizards.
“It’s amazing what confidence will do,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said of Rush’s development. “He’s playing pretty good basketball. He’s our best athlete and … can have an impact on the game.”
Washington stayed in the game early with a big advantage in free throws.
The Wizards made 36 of 45 foul shots for the game. They were 15-of-21 in the first half, including two straight by Butler and one by Andray Blatche for their biggest lead, 46-41, midway through the second period.
Rush then had a dunk and a 3-point basket to tie the game. Washington’s last lead was 48-46 on a drive by Butler, but a 3-pointer by Jack put the Pacers on top for good. T.J. Ford then hit two free throws, Rush hit another 3-pointer and Jack finished a 15-2 run with two free throws for a 56-48 lead.
Washington pulled within four, but a 3-pointer by Granger gave Indiana its 59-52 lead at the half.
The Pacers blew the game open with two baskets by Rush during a 10-2 run at the start of the third quarter.
“We know Rush has been on a tear lately,” Wizards coach Ed Tapscott said. “He’s shooting the ball with great confidence, and now that gives them two threats on the perimeter to play off of. It makes it even tougher to guard Danny Granger. Confidence is a wonderful thing when you have it.
“One of the things, other than the score, that disappointed me tonight was we only had 10 assists,” Tapscott said. “Ten assists in a game where we scored 115 points. That’s out of proportion. That means we didn’t do a good enough job sharing the ball at the right times, and of course we didn’t defend well enough.”
As expected, the Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas did not play. Arenas, who had 15 points against the Pistons on Saturday night in his first game in 11 months, does not plan to play in back-to-back games the rest of the season to allow more time for his ailing left knee to rest. … Indiana’s Troy Murphy, who sprained a knee ligament in a shootaround on Wednesday, also did not play for the third straight game. … Pacers F Jeff Foster, who tied his career high with 18 rebounds at Chicago on Saturday, had nine against the Wizards and has totaled 43 in the past three games starting in place of Murphy. … Washington has the second-worst record in the NBA and is the only Eastern Conference team already eliminated from playoff contention. … Butler averaged 30.3 points and 11.3 rebounds and Jamison 29.7 points and nine rebounds in three games against Indiana this season.