Pacers, Wizards meet in battle for play-in positioning

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·3 min read
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The Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards are set to meet Monday night in Washington, D.C., in the first of two games over the final two weeks of the regular season.

And as it stands, there's a chance they could meet a third time in a matchup between the ninth and 10th seeds in the Eastern Conference in the play-in round of the NBA playoffs.

The Pacers (30-33) hold the ninth spot in the East and are 1 1/2 games ahead of the 10th-place Wizards (29-35) with nine games remaining. The Wizards have eight games left.

Indiana hopes to be healthier for the playoffs.

The first step came Saturday when Domantas Sabonis returned after missing six games with a sore lower back and sparked a historic 152-95 road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Sabonis had a triple-double by halftime, finishing with 26 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high 14 assists to lead the Pacers to their highest-scoring output in franchise history.

"It was so much fun to finally be out there with my teammates," Sabonis said. "Watching on the sidelines for an athlete is never fun, and to be out there again and play the game was awesome."

Indiana's margin of victory was the largest by a road team in NBA history, and the Pacers led at one point by 67 points as they challenged the overall record set by the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 68-point win over the Miami Heat in 1991.

Sabonis shot 10-for-13 from the field, and Indiana finished a staggering 65.5 percent overall. Sabonis said he had never experienced a win such as that on the professional level.

"We didn't even realize the score most of the time," Sabonis said. "We were just running our plays, trying to be aggressive, and good things were happening."

Another impressive triple-double kept the Wizards from adding another win to their postseason push on Saturday. Washington lost for only the third time in its past 15 games, falling 125-124 to the Dallas Mavericks thanks largely to Luka Doncic's 31 points, career-high 20 assists and 12 rebounds.

Russell Westbrook nearly had one himself, finishing with 42 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and Bradley Beal scored 29 points, but it was not enough.

"Shouldn't have lost the game. Should not have lost the game," Beal said. "We're down 18, played really good to come back, played really well the last couple minutes down the stretch, and just had some mishaps."

Westbrook shot 17-for-30 from the field and played 40 minutes despite it being the second night of a back-to-back.

"His intensity and determination, his will put us in position," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "I'm proud of our guys giving ourselves a chance. The way we started, they could have just said, 'You know, let's just wait until we get home.'"

Malcolm Brogdon missed Saturday's game after injuring his right hamstring in the Pacers' previous game.

In addition to Myles Turner (right toe) and T.J. Warren (left-foot stress fracture), who are out indefinitely with injuries, Goga Bitadze (left-ankle sprain), Jeremy Lamb (sore left knee) and JaKarr Simpson (concussion) were out against the Thunder.

For Washington, Deni Avdija (right-ankle fracture) and Thomas Bryant (left ACL) are out for the season.

--Field Level Media