INDIANAPOLIS — The ecstasy was short-lived. Bradley Beal thought he had made a go-ahead three-pointer with 15 seconds remaining in Monday night’s game at Indiana, prancing down the floor to high-fives and hugs from teammates. Then a replay showed his toes just barely touching the arc and the three turned into a two. The game was tied.
A few seconds later, Pacers forward Thaddeus Young drove past Markieff Morris and finished a difficult shot, the play that would ultimately be the difference in a 107-105 Pacers win that snapped the Wizards’ three-game winning streak.
“It’s a little more frustrating,” John Wall said in comparing this one with the other close losses this season. “A game we played well. We got stops when we needed. We executed our game plan that we wanted. Even the last shot, we got a great look. Took the ball out of the guy’s hands we didn’t want to shoot it and some guy ended up making a tough shot.”
The Wizards had one more crack before time expired, executing an inbounds play that gave Beal a clean look near the right corner. The shot was off, however, and the celebration of the previous moment turned to disappointment. Marcin Gortat fell to his back. Beal walked off the floor with his hands on his head.
“It was a heck of a game and unfortunately games like this,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said, “somebody has to lose and feel disappointed.”
After the game, the frustration only heightened as the Wizards recalled a pivotal fourth-quarter call.
With 2:40 remaining on the Pacers’ end, Indiana forward Paul George and Otto Porter Jr. jabbed at a ball heading out of bounds. Officials ruled the ball was off Porter. However, replays revealed that George, who had his hand extended, likely touched the ball last. Since the play happened before the final two minutes, officials could not review the play, but the Wizards fiercely protested. On the reset, George lost Gortat with a dribble and then pulled back to hit the right baseline jumper and give the Pacers a 103-96 lead.
Wall called it “the play that changed the game,” while Beal saw it as a missed call.
“There were a lot of moments in the game we feel like calls should’ve been the other way. I feel like the out-of-bounds call when they got the ball back was probably a huge turnaround for them,” Beal said. “If you look at that again, there’s no way Otto touched the ball. . . . There’s no way he’s tapping the ball that way.”
Gortat (21 points, 13 rebounds) and Wall (19 points, 10 assists) had double-doubles. Beal scored a team-high 22 points, with 10 coming in the first quarter as the Wizards fell to 12-15, dropping the second half of a back-to-back.
During the winning streak, Beal has played efficiently while leading the team with 18.3 shot attempts, shooting 52.7 percent from the floor and 44 from beyond the arc. By Monday night, Beal had landed near the top of the Pacers’ scouting report.
Indiana Coach Nate McMillan ticked off the defensive boxes: Be physical against Beal, throw pressure at him and don’t allow him to get comfortable in the pick-and-roll game. However, McMillan conceded the inevitable.
“When he gets space or open looks in the perimeter,” McMillan said of Beal, “he’s deadly.”
While working off screens, Beal scored five points within the opening minute as the Wizards made their first four shots and jumped to a 12-1 lead. As accurate as the Wizards were on the offensive end, they were not without their issues.
In the first quarter, they committed five turnovers — a big reason why the efficient shooting (60.9 percent) did not create a lead larger than 11 points. By halftime, the Wizards’ nine turnovers led to eight points for Indiana and the teams walked off the court tied at 57.
Even more distressing than their turnover problem was that Beal, who was leading the Wizards in scoring, had to take a seat early in the third quarter. Less than two minutes into the third, Beal missed a floater and then committed a loose-ball foul, his fourth personal.
“He was out of his rhythm a little bit with his foul situation,” Brooks said. “He picked up a couple of tough ones, but he fought though it and made big shots down the stretch.”
Without Beal, Washington’s perimeter play suffered as the team missed its next five attempts from the arc. By the time Beal returned, Washington had fallen into its largest deficit, 88-79. But the Wizards responded with a 9-0 run to start the fourth.
While George laid low for three quarters, relatively speaking for a three-time all-star, the Wizards granted too much to his teammates. Pacers point guard Jeff Teague skittered about and schooled defenders while scoring the majority of his 23 points at the rim. Second-year center Myles Turner’s pick-and-pop game threw the defense out of whack, and he finished with 20. And George found his rhythm in the final quarter, scoring nine of his game-high 27 points, many on difficult drives and step-back jumpers.
But the shot that mattered most came from Young, who finished with 12 points. With 4.9 seconds remaining in a game still deadlocked, he took an inbounds pass near the right elbow, drove the left side and made a left-handed runner with Morris playing tough defense.
The Wizards dropped to 1-5 in the second leg of back-to-backs.
“We’ll take that shot any day of the week,” Brooks said of Beal’s final attempt. “I was just want our guys to keep their heads up and get ready for the next game.”