The Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers will square off against each other on Thursday night in a play-in game, with the winner securing the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and a first-round matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers. The loser will see their season come to an end. The Pacers are coming off a commanding victory over the Charlotte Hornets in their first play-in game, while the Wizards fell to the Boston Celtics in their play-in contest.
For what it's worth, the Wizards won all three games against the Pacers during the regular season, with the most recent matchup coming earlier this month on May 8. Ultimately, the game between the Wizards and Pacers could simply come down to which team wants to keep their season alive more. Here's everything you need to know ahead of Thursday's play-in game between the Pacers and Wizards.
(8) Washington Wizards vs. (9) Indiana Pacers
- When: Thursday, May 20 | 8 p.m. ET
- Where: Capital One Arena -- Washington, D.C.
- TV: TNT | Live stream: fuboTV
- Odds: WAS -160; IND +140; O/U 237.5 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
1. Wizards need bounce-back games from Westbrook, Beal
If you just glanced at the final box score from Washington's loss to Boston on Tuesday night, you might think that Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal both had solid games. After all, Westbrook finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds and Beal had 22 points and nine boards. But in reality, neither guy played exceptionally well, or up to their individual potential. Westbrook was a minus-19 for the game, as he shot just 6 of 18 from the floor and had four turnovers, while Beal (minus-20) shot just 10 of 25 from the floor and had three turnovers of his own. Both players can be better, and more efficient, and they'll need to be against the Pacers if the Wizards want their season to continue.
2. Indiana should continue playing through Sabonis
Domantas Sabonis could prove to be the difference-maker against the Wizards. He did everything for the Pacers against the Hornets, and at times he looked like his own version of Nikola Jokic -- a player capable of dominating a game without having to score a ton of points. Sabonis finished with 14 points, 21 rebounds and nine assists against Charlotte -- just one assist shy of a triple-double, and the Pacers ran their offense through him time and again. When Sabonis has a smaller player defending him, he's able to take advantage with his size. If not, he's able to create open opportunities for his teammates with his passing ability. This was on full display on Tuesday night, as he shredded Charlotte's defense on multiple occasions. Look for Indiana to go to Sabonis early and often against Washington -- until the Wizards prove that they have an answer.
3. Can Pacers' offense stay hot?
The Pacers were clicking on all cylinders on the offensive end against the Hornets, but the Wizards will be a different story as they're a much more experienced team. The Pacers shot 55 percent from the floor and 45 percent from long range against the Hornets. One has to assume that Washington will make things a bit more difficult for Indiana. The Pacers will again be without Caris LeVert against Washington, and they're also still without Myles Turner and T.J. Warren. So in other words. they won't have three of their top offensive options. Against the Hornets, it was Doug McDermott and Oshae Brissett who stepped up for Indiana as that duo combined for 44 points. If those two can have a repeat performance, the Pacers will have a great chance of pulling out a win over the Wizards. Getting that type of production from them is far from a guarantee, though. So it will be interesting to see where Indiana's ancillary offense comes from outside of Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon.
The Wizards won all three games against the Pacers during the regular season, and that trend is likely to continue on Thursday night. Even with Bradley Beal not at 100 percent, the Wizards are the healthier team at this point in time, as the Pacers will be without Caris LeVert, Myles Turner and T.J. Warren for the matchup. Had the Pacers been fully healthy over the course of the campaign, things might have turned out differently, but their season is likely going to come to a close on Thursday. Pick: Wizards -3