Wizards-Pacers Preview


While most of the talk about Indiana this season has focused on the NBA's best defense, the Pacers have also displayed a well-balanced approach on offense.

C.J. Watson is the latest player to provide Indiana with an offensive spark during the best start in franchise history.

The league-leading Pacers will look to improve to 9-0 at home when they host the surging Washington Wizards on Friday night.

Watson hit five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and had a season-high 18 points to lead the Pacers (14-1) to their fifth straight win, 99-74 at Charlotte on Wednesday.

The seventh-year guard, in his first season with Indiana, came in 6 of 29 from 3-point range on the season before going 6 for 7 against the Bobcats.

"I have been struggling and I knew I'd been struggling," he said. "But I just stayed in the gym, stayed focused and just kept working and stayed confident. I tried to go out there, be aggressive and take what the game gave me."

Five players scored in double figures for the Pacers and Paul George had 15 points to surpass 3,000 for his career.

That offensive balance has been consistent throughout the season. George is scoring a team-leading 23.7 points per game, but five Pacers are averaging in double digits and Indiana has played two games in which six players finished with at least 10.

"Good Indiana Pacers-style win with offensive balance and different guys stepping up each night and dominating with defense and rebounding," coach Frank Vogel said after Wednesday's victory. "C.J. Watson obviously was the star of the game tonight. It seems like it's a different guy every night for us."

The Pacers' defense remains impressive, limiting the Bobcats to 31 percent shooting. Indiana, leading the league with 86.5 points allowed per game, held Charlotte's backcourt duo of Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson to 6 of 32 from the field.

"They keep you from getting into the paint and they have long, strong defenders on the perimeter," Henderson said. "And then they really protect the basket well with Hibbert. Playing a team like that, if your jump shot is not falling then it's going to be tough to beat them."

Indiana will be facing a Wizards team that's averaging 100.3 points on the season but is at 104.7 and shooting 50.6 percent during a three-game win streak.

After this contest, the Pacers hit the road on a tough five-game western trip that features games against the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

Indiana's nine-game overall winning streak against Washington ended with a 104-85 road loss April 6 in which George was held to two points and 0-of-8 shooting. But the Pacers have won 10 straight home matchups with the Wizards dating to Oct. 31, 2007.

The Wizards (7-8) have won five of six following a 100-92 overtime victory at Milwaukee on Wednesday in the opener of a two-game trip.

Marcin Gortat scored 25 points on 11-of-12 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Washington, which overcame O.J. Mayo's tying 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left in regulation to improve to 2-2 in overtime games.

The Wizards held the Bucks to only Mayo's 3-pointer during the last four minutes of the fourth quarter and to five points in overtime. The Bucks shot 1 of 8 during those final four minutes of regulation and went 2 of 8 in OT.

"It was not the prettiest win, but in this league any win is a good win," coach Randy Wittman said. "I'm an old-school coach and I believe that defense wins games more than offense. And tonight we really played well late in the game."