Wizards throttle Pacers to grab final playoff spot in East

WASHINGTON — Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal did what they do — a close to triple-double for one, 25 factors in simply 29 minutes for the opposite — and the Washington Wizards reached the NBA playoffs because the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed by overwhelming the Indiana Pacers 142-115 in the play-in spherical Thursday evening.

Washington led by as many as 38 factors and superior to face Joel Embiid and the No. 1 seed Philadelphia 76ers in the primary spherical, marking fairly a turnaround for coach Scott Brooks’ crew, which was 17-32 in early April.

Indiana’s run of 5 consecutive playoff appearances ended in coach Nate Bjorkgren’s debut season.

A bit of greater than every week after breaking Oscar Robertson’s profession file for many regular-season triple-doubles, Westbrook completed Thursday with 18 factors, 15 rebounds and eight assists, and it was Beal — second in the NBA in scoring two years in a row — whose 3-pointer opened up a 30-point lead at 98-68 with about 4 minutes left in the third quarter.

Beal skipped the fourth quarter completely. Westbrook sat out the final 8 minutes and tossed his sneakers to a fan.

The backcourt mates each heard “M-V-P!” chants throughout journeys to the foul line, as did reserve heart Robin Lopez in an appreciative if extra tongue-in-cheek manner, from a giddy crowd capped at 5,333 — 1 / 4 of the sector’s capability — due to COVID-19 considerations. The coronavirus pandemic can also be why the season consisted solely of 72 video games, as a substitute of the usual 82, and the league created the play-in format involving groups that had been 7-10 in every convention.

Bradley Beal, who scored 25 points, slams on home during the Wizards' 142-115 playoff-clinching victory over the Pacers.
Bradley Beal, who scored 25 factors, slams one dwelling through the Wizards’ 142-115 playoff-clinching victory over the Pacers.

The Wizards went 17-6 over the past six weeks of the season to end with the eighth-best file in the East, however then misplaced the 7-vs.-8 recreation on the Boston Celtics 118-100 Tuesday. The Pacers received the 9-vs.-10 recreation at dwelling towards the Charlotte Hornets 144-117 that evening.

Washington averaged 139.7 factors whereas sweeping the three-game season sequence towards the Pacers and, nicely, this one had a lot the identical really feel. It was shut till slightly greater than 1 1/2 minutes elapsed in the second quarter, when the rating was 34-all.

From there, Westbrook took over for a bit, bullying his manner by means of the lane and mean-mugging Pacers gamers. A 16-0 run fueled by six factors from Lopez made it 50-34 and prompted the Pacers to take a timeout. They by no means recovered.

Heading to the sideline for the break, Westbrook paused on the court docket to raised a hand and wiggled his fingers whereas wanting into the stands, pleading for extra noise. Later, it was Beal — who has been coping with a strained left hamstring — wind-milling his arms as he and his teammates poured it on, hitting 58.1% of their shot makes an attempt; the guests solely completed above 40% thanks to some fourth-quarter baskets lengthy after the result was determined.

Malcolm Brogdon led Indiana with 24 factors. Pacers All-Star Domantas Sabonis had a triple-double with 19 factors, 11 rebounds and 10 assists earlier than fouling out early in the fourth quarter.

They now head into the offseason, whereas the Wizards are again in the postseason after lacking out the previous two years earlier than buying Westbrook in a commerce that despatched John Wall to Houston.

Washington handled a COVID-19 outbreak that affected greater than half of its roster and led to a two-week hiatus. The staff additionally misplaced two starters for the season with accidents: first-round draft choose Deni Avdija (damaged proper ankle) — he took photographs in the paint whereas seated on a black folding chair earlier than Thursday’s recreation — and heart Thomas Bryant (torn left knee ligament).

Now, although, Westbrook, Beal and Co. get to preserve enjoying.

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