The Indiana Pacers will look to avenge a season-opening loss to the Washington Wizards when the teams meet in the nation’s capital on Friday.
Bradley Beal scored 23 points and the Wizards led wire-to-wire in a 114-107 win over the Pacers on Oct. 19.
Washington has built on the season-opening performance and carries a 3-1 record into Friday’s contest. The rebuilding Pacers have lost four of their first five games, including a 124-109 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
The Wizards relied on a balanced attack in a 120-99 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. Kyle Kuzma scored 25 points, Kristaps Porzingis had 20, Will Barton added 16 and Beal finished with 13.
Porzingis is averaging 16.8 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range.
Washington has had at least five players reach double figures in three of its first four games.
“It’s a solid balance where the ball is moving. That means they’re moving bodies, moving the ball. Everybody’s involved,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “I think that helps also on the defensive end — your overall offensive efficiency, but also guys feel like they’re part of it. They’re more invested in trying to defend at a high level.”
Beal exited Tuesday’s game with three minutes left in the first quarter because of back tightness, but he was able to return late in the third period.
The three-time All-Star is averaging 20.5 points and 6.3 assists while shooting 58.9 percent.
Beal has also led the Wizards’ improved effort on the defensive end. The team held Detroit to 40.9 percent shooting in Tuesday’s win, and none of Washington’s first four opponents have shot better than 42.7 percent.
“We’re asking a lot of (Beal), and he’s bought into the defensive side,” Unseld said. “I think he’s been unbelievably good on the defensive end with his energy, his attention to detail and asking him to do it on both ends of the floor. Thus far, he’s done it.”
The Wizards will try to get off to a quick start against Indiana, which struggled again in the first half of Wednesday’s loss to Chicago.
The Pacers allowed 38 points in each of the first two quarters against the Bulls and have been outscored in the first quarter of all five of their games.
Indiana’s roster consists of a mix of young players such as rookies Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard along with veterans Buddy Hield and Myles Turner.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said there is no easy fix to the team’s slow starts.
“I can change the lineups all day long, and everybody’s going to be clamoring for our young guys to play all the minutes, and we’re not there,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got good veteran players that need to help lead this team and need to help us compete better at the beginning of games.”
Turner made his season debut against the Bulls after missing four games due to a sprained left ankle and recorded five points and six rebounds in 24 minutes.
“There was the expected rust in his first game, but I thought he did a lot of great things,” Carlisle said. “He was a real presence around the basket, he had four blocked shots. He’s going to help us a lot.”
–Field Level Media