Bradley Beal scored a game-high 25 points, Trevor Ariza added 22 and the well-rested Washington Wizards improved to 4-0 on the road this postseason with a 102-96 win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference semifinal.
Beal added seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals and Ariza hit 6-of-6 from 3-point range for Washington, which had not played since finishing off a 4-1 first-round series win over the Chicago Bulls last Tuesday. The Pacers, meanwhile, needed seven games to get past Atlanta, winning Game 7 on Saturday.
“We had a lot of time to practice and find the rhythm again,” said Ariza. “We didn’t know who we were going to play but when we did we all definitely locked in and got ready to play this game today.”
Marcin Gortat and Drew Gooden each posted double-doubles in the victory, as Washington won a game in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1982. Gortat finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds and Gooden posted 12 points with 13 boards in just under 18 minutes off the bench.
John Wall did his part as well, contributing 13 points and nine assists.
The Pacers, who earned the top seed in the East with a 56-26 regular season mark, won consecutive games to advance past the Hawks but still have not won three straight since a four-game streak against non-playoff teams from March 11-17.
Paul George and George Hill each scored 18 points in defeat.
“We had an opportunity to win this game, we just didn’t fight hard enough,” said Pacers forward David West. “We didn’t have enough grit.”
Ariza dominated the opening quarter, but the fourth belonged to Beal. The young Florida product redeemed himself for an early turnover with a pull-up jumper and a pair of free throws to give the Wizards a double-digit margin, 78-68, with 9:40 to play.
Beal then found the range, potting a deep jumper with his foot on the 3-point line and two treys as the Wizards pulled away. Gooden added a pair of tip-ins, outworking Indiana’s frontline on the glass and energizing his teammates in the process. His tip of his own missed layup at 5:44 put the visitors up by 14.
The result was never really in doubt after that, despite Hill sinking three 3- pointers in the final 33 seconds. The Wizards shot 8-for-8 from the stripe down the stretch to keep the surging Pacers at arm’s length.
Ariza hit four 3s in the opening 12 minutes, nearly matching Indiana’s point total by himself. The Pacers struggled to put the ball in the hoop in the first quarter, shooting at just a 5-for-23 clip. The Wizards led 28-15 through one.
The two teams played to a draw in the second, and Washington’s lead at halftime was 56-43.
After allowing 28 points in both the first and second quarters, Indiana’s stout defense came alive in the third, holding the Wizards to just 13 points in the stanza.
A 10-0 run late in the frame saw the Pacers trim their deficit to 69-62 heading into the fourth.
Notes: Game 2 is set for Wednesday in Indianapolis … The Pacers ranked third in the NBA in the regular season defending the 3-point line, holding opponents to just 35.5 percent. Washington shot 10-for-16 (62.5 percent) in Game 1 … The Wizards had lost eight straight series openers before these playoffs. They are 2-0 in openers in 2014 … The win snapped Washington’s 12-game losing streak at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. No current players were on the roster for the last victory, which came on April 18, 2007 … The Wizards won the rebounding margin, 53-36 … Pacers center Roy Hibbert had no points and no rebounds in 17:43 of action. It was his third game without a point in this postseason.