INDIANAPOLIS — Scott Brooks looked around the league, noticed the scoreboards and felt a tinge of uneasiness. With the NBA’s all-star break teasingly close, a player’s mind can wander, and Brooks felt the recent lopsided results reflected the lack of focus.
“A lot of strange scores the last couple of nights,” Brooks said before the Washington Wizards met the Indiana Pacers.
Brooks wanted to make sure his team took its final game before the break seriously. He need not have worried — there was no lack of focus inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, only a show of strength and single-mindedness.
Washington never trailed in an impressive 111-98 conquest, earning its fourth consecutive win and 18th in the past 21 games.
“I’ve never been even this close to winning this many games this early in my career,” said John Wall, who has spent his seven years as a pro in Washington and completed his ninth consecutive double-double (20 points, 12 assists) to match the longest stretch of his career.
“We believe what we’re doing out there on the court,” Wall said.
Washington has embraced a balanced inside-out attack that allows everyone on the floor to shine. The Wizards shot 51.8 percent Thursday, with each starter attempting at least 10 shots and reaching double figures. The starting five accounted for 87 percent of the total and led the three-point attack by matching a season-best with 15 made threes out of 29 attempts.
With less than six minutes remaining in the final quarter, Otto Porter Jr. tied his career high with six three-pointers, and he scored a game-high 25 points to go with eight rebounds. Markieff Morris (8 for 12 overall, 3 for 4 from the arc) contributed 21 points and seven rebounds.
“It’s just tough to guard us, man. We have so many threats,” said Bradley Beal, who made four threes and finished with 19 points. “You forget about Keef and you forget about [Marcin] Gortat, and then you key in on Otto. Then you got me. You key in on me, then you got Otto. Then [Wall] is driving to the basket and has his game going.”
Although Beal declined an invitation to participate in the All-Star Weekend’s three-point contest, Porter never got a call despite leading the league in three-point shooting (.459 percentage).
“I’m not mad or anything about it,” Porter said of the snub. “I’m just continuing to do what I do. I mean, so what?”
Instead of going to New Orleans, Porter put on his own exhibition Thursday night in the first quarter. Wall found Porter waiting in the right corner, and he downed two from that spot. He then hit one more from the left corner.
By the time the Pacers called for a huddle at the 7:37 mark, Porter had accounted for nine of the Wizards’ 14 points. On Washington’s first possession following the timeout, the simple yet effective offense continued — another Wall assist, another three for Porter.
Then just ahead the buzzer, Porter finished his around-the-world tour by banking a 29-footer for his fifth three. Washington made 7 of 10 three-point attempts in the first quarter.
“O.P. got hot,” said Morris, who was surprised that the team “only” made 15 three-pointers, “and it basically opened the basket for all of us.”
Wall followed a similar routine: setting the table for Porter and other teammates through the first half before working his own scoring game. Wall scored nine in the third quarter as the Wizards held a double-digit lead.
As the Wizards coasted, Wall heard mocking chants of “overrated” at the Pacers’ home. He waved his fingers as if to ask for more, knowing full well his play had silenced the taunts.
Even with the game in hand late in the fourth, Wall remained on the court as a stubborn competitor. Just when Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey felt he had a breakaway layup, Wall made up the distance and swatted the attempt off the glass. Later, with less than a minute to play, a feeble “overrated” chant tried to start up again but gained little steam since most fans were already heading to the exits. And the Wizards headed into a well-earned break.
“Games like this you get caught up in looking forward to the break too much,” Beal admitted. “The game right before the break and the games after the break, those are the toughest ones.
“We did a great job of making sure we stayed focused and locked in the rest of the game.”