Game Preview: Indiana Pacers take on surging Wizards in a pivotal 9-10 clash

After Saturday night’s historic walloping of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 9th-seeded Indiana Pacers continue their road trip in Washington, DC for a pivotal game against 10th place Wizards, who have won 10 out of their last 12 outings.

This game comes with a bunch of complications, with play-in positioning atop the list. As things currently stand, the Pacers are 1.5 games above the Wizards. With a win, they will extend their edge in the standings over the Wizards to 2.5 games. With only nine games remaining, the Navy and Gold are safely in the play-in picture, a healthy four games above 11th place Raptors.

Backcourt and Transition Defense keys to stopping Washington

It is easy to judge the Wizards by their record, but their explosive backcourt duo of former MVP Russell Westbrook and the league’s second leading scorer Bradley Beal gives them a chance to sneak up on teams despite their mediocre roster, as their current surge shows. In fact, Washington defeated the Pacers in their last meeting, a 132-124 home win led by Westbrook’s furious 35-14-21 triple double and Rui Hachimura‘s 26.

Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert and the team’s army of perimeter stoppers will have their hands full not only with Washington’s backcourt, but also with their transition offense that ranks 1st in pace. Rim protection will also be equally important, especially with the Wizards norming 51.7 points in the paint per game, the league’s 6th-best mark.

On offense, the Indiana Pacers will be best served continuing their spectacular ball movement in their animated win against the Thunder, which saw them record 41 assists leading to a video game-like 65.6 percent shooting on the floor, including a franchise-record 21 threes on only 33 tries.

Injury Report for Indiana Pacers (30-33)

JaKarr Sampson – out (concussion), Myles Turner – game-time decision (toe), Malcolm Brogdon – game-time decision (hamstring), Edmond Sumner – game-time decision (knee), Jeremy Lamb – game-time decision (knee), Goga Bitadze – game-time decision (ankle), T.J. Warren – out for the season (foot): per CBS.

Injury Report for Washington Wizards (29-35)

Deni Avdija – out for the season (knee), Thomas Bryant – out for the season (knee): per CBS.

A Little History…

ON THIS DAY: On May 3, 2005, the Indiana Pacers defeated the Boston Celtics 90-85 in Game 5 to retake a 3-2 series lead in the First Round of the 2005 Eastern Conference Playoffs. Jermaine O’Neal paced the Blue and Gold with a 19-10 double-double while Stephen Jackson added 15. Paul Pierce’s 27 led the C’s.