This was, after all, the Wizards – a team that had surrendered a 17-point lead in a regular-season loss to San Antonio, and a team that, for some reason or another, hasn’t been able to figure out how to keep its intensity high after halftime.
“They outscored us every game in this series in the third quarter,” Wall said. “Even though we knew we had the lead, it was never safe.”
Behind 39 points from Paul George, including 13 in the third quarter and 15 in the fourth, the Pacers completed the comeback at Verizon Center, defeating the Wizards 95-92 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the teams’ second-round playoff series.
That means the Pacers are in position to close out the best-of-seven series with a victory at home on Tuesday in Game 5.
Bradley Beal, one of six players to reach double figures in scoring, had 20 points for the Wizards, who have now lost three consecutive games after taking the Game 1 victory in Indianapolis last Monday.
Trevor Ariza had 16 points and nine rebounds, Wall had 12 points and seven assists and Nenê added 10 points.
Washington’s lead hit 19 points early in the third quarter, but that was the only high it would experience during that period. The Pacers virtually erased the 55-38 halftime deficit by the end of the quarter, trimming the Wizards‘ lead to just one point, 72-71, after embarking on a 20-4 run over the final 6:02.
The final nail came not even 90 seconds into the fourth quarter when George, who set a playoff career high in scoring and tied a franchise playoff record with seven 3-pointers, sank the free throw awarded after he drew the foul on a floater.
The Wizards have now lost 12 games this season in which they once held a double-digit lead, though none of the defeats will sting as much as the one on Sunday.
“At this point and time in the year, you can’t afford that – especially against a good team,” said forward Al Harrington. “At the end of the day, they’re an elite team. They were No. 1 in our conference. Take our hats off to them. They did what they were supposed to do by winning the game. We’ve got to get back to the drawing board.”
It was because of Harrington, who had 11 points and six rebounds, and the rest of the Wizards‘ bench that the lead reached the margin it did. The second unit outscored Indiana’s bench 32-2, and it was primarily responsible for a 29-point second quarter that had Washington thinking at halftime it would be able to return home for Game 6 on Thursday.
Andre Miller played 16 minutes in relief of Wall and had seven points and four assists, while Drew Gooden, who has been reliable as the sixth man in this series, had 10 points and four rebounds in 27 minutes.
They could only do so much. After the Wizards fell apart in the third quarter, defensive miscues abound, the bench again exerted its will, muscling the advantage back to nine points with 7:51 remaining when Gooden drained a long jumper from the top of the arc.
George, who scored 23 points in the Pacers‘ Game 3 victory, again carried his teammates to the finish. He knocked down a pair of 3-pointers midway through the quarter to cut Indiana’s deficit to three points, then gave his team its first lead since the end of the first quarter with a pair of free throws with 2:24 to play.