Wizards find magic against Pacers
Take first game of series in Indiana
WASHINGTON keeps finding ways to break through old, stubborn barriers. Even in the unlikeliest place of all - Indiana.
Bradley Beal scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, Trevor Ariza added 22 and the Wizards held off the Pacers with a stout defense over the final 7 1/2 minutes last night to get a 102-96 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It was Washington's first second-round win in 32 years.
"We know it's a tough building to play in. We haven't won here in a while," Ariza said after the Wizards snapped a 12-game losing streak in Indy. "Why wouldn't this be the best time to come here and get a win - in the playoffs?"
The Wizards know there is a lot more work to do in this best-of-seven series.
Game 2 is tomorrow in Indianapolis.
So far, though, things have gone well for the upstart Wizards.
After clinching their first playoff berth since 2008, the Wizards have advanced to the second round for the first time since 2005, won at Indiana for the first time since April 18, 2007, and have their first second-round win since April 28, 1982. Washington has opened these playoffs with four straight road wins and put the pressure right back on the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
It doesn't get better than that for a young team that beat Chicago, 4-1, in the opening round.
"The way I think about it, I'm 20 years old, I'm playing in the playoffs, something I've always dreamed of. Why not embrace it?" Beal said. "Why not accept the challenge and have fun with it? That's all I'm doing - having fun."
For the Pacers, it was another kick in the pants.
After salvaging their season with two straight wins to beat Atlanta in seven games, Indiana lost Game 1 for the second straight series and for many of the same reasons.
The Pacers were outrebounded, 53-36, and were outscored, 19-5, on second-chance points. They got beat outside as Washington made a franchise playoff-record 10 three-pointers with Ariza going 6-for-6. They got no points and no rebounds from 7-2 center Roy Hibbert, who has looked nothing like the All-Star he was during the first half of the season.
And when they were desperately trying to rally in the fourth quarter, the Pacers went 7 minutes without a basket.
Things got so frustrating that the emotional Lance Stephenson lost his cool and snapped at coach Frank Vogel when he was yanked with 1 minute to play in the third quarter. Vogel said he took Stephenson out because he didn't want him playing 48 minutes. Stephenson said he was mostly mad at himself.
"I waited too late," Stephenson said. "Third quarter was too late to turn [it] up. I mean, we need to come out first quarter and turn [it] up and get everybody going so the second half we could already have that pace."
In another game
* At Oklahoma City, Chris Paul had 32 points and 10 assists and the Los Angeles Clippers crushed the Thunder, 122-105, to win Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
* Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey has agreed to a new 3-year contract, a person with knowledge of the deal told the Associated Press.
The agreement was reached yesterday, one day after the Raptors lost Game 7 to the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The person requested anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.
Casey led the Raptors to a surprising, 48-34 record and the Atlantic Division title in his third season with the team.
* LeBron James says Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant would be a deserving winner of the NBA MVP award.
It's expected that Durant will be announced as this season's MVP later this week. James has lauded Durant's play this season several times in recent weeks, doing so again yesterday.
James said: "Much respect to him and he deserves it. He had a big-time MVP season."