Wizards top Pacers in series opener
INDIANAPOLIS - (UPDATE 1) Bradley Beal scored a game-high 25 points and Trevor Ariza added 22 as the well-rested Washington Wizards beat top-seeded Indiana 102-96 on Monday to open their NBA playoff series.
The Wizards improved to 4-0 on the road in this post-season as they seized the lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference second-round series.
Beal added seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals and Ariza connected on six of six attempts from three-point range for the Wizards, who hadn't played since wrapping up a 4-1 first-round series win over Chicago last Tuesday.
The Pacers, meanwhile, needed seven games to get past Atlanta, advancing with a game-seven win on Saturday.
Ariza said he didn't perceive the Pacers as tired after their tough first-round tussle.
"It's not something I try to pay attention to," he said. "We know they're a good team, we know they're a physical team and the best way for us to have a chance to win this series is if we worry about ourselves," he said.
Marcin Gortat and Drew Gooden each posted double-doubles in the comprehensive triumph -- Washington's first since 1982 in the second round of the playoffs.
Gortat finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds and Gooden posted 12 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in less than 18 minutes off the bench.
John Wall did his part also, contributing 13 points and nine assists as the Wizards snapped a 12-game losing streak in Indianapolis.
The Pacers, who earned the top seed in the East with a 56-26 regular season record, won back-to-back games to squeeze past the Hawks in the first round.
But they haven't won three games in a row since a four-game winning streak against non-playoff teams back in March.
The Wizards out-rebounded the Pacers 53-36 and out-scored Indiana 19-5 on second-chance points.
"We know this is going to be a war and winning the boards is important for us," Washington coach Randy Wittman said. "When we rebound, we can get out and run and our pace was important tonight."
Paul George and George Hill scored 18 points apiece in the defeat. Pacers All-Star center Roy Hibbert, however, remained mired in his playoff slump, failing to produce a point or rebound in 18 minutes.
While Ariza dominated in the first quarter, Beal sparkled in the fourth.
His jump shot and two free throws gave Washington a double-digit lead, 78-68, with 9:40 remaining.
Washington led by 14 with 5:44 to play, and the Pacers never really threatened after that, despite three late three-pointers from Hill.
"We can't put ourselves in these predicaments," George said. "We should have learned from the first series. We've got to get off to good starts in games and series."
The Pacers will try to even the series when they host game two on Wednesday.
The Eastern Conference semi-finals continue on Tuesday when two-time defending NBA champions Miami host the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets won all four regular-season games against the Heat, but three of those games were decided by a single point and Brooklyn won't be taking anything for granted.
"We know we can beat them, but there's a difference between regular season and the playoffs," Brooklyn All-Star guard Joe Johnson said.
While the Nets battled out a seven-game first-round victory over Toronto, Miami swept the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round.
Heat superstar LeBron James said the extra rest had let players -- including himself -- recover from injuries.
Now the Heat are poised to continue their pursuit of a third straight title.
"This is going to be a very challenging round," Miami's Dwyane Wade said. "You wouldn't want it any other way."
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