Wizards Russell Westrbrook drives the lane.
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Russell Westbrook #4 of the Washington Wizards looks to pass against the Indiana Pacers during the first half at Capital One Arena on March 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

Pacers Defense Wilts Against Russell Westbrook, Wizards

INDIANAPOLIS – It didn’t matter the Wizards had the NBA’s leading scorer sidelined on Monday night.

They still had the best player on the floor.

And that’s saying something considering Domantas Sabonis scored 35 and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Russell Westbrook (35 points, 21 assists, 14 rebounds) was the best player on the floor Monday, setting an NBA record with the first-ever 35-point, 20-assist triple-double.

Westbrook made all the needed plays late, spurring a 22-8 Washington run to turn a 6-point deficit with 5 minutes to play into a 132-124 victory. The victory for Washington (17-28) came without Bradley Beal.

No answer for Westbrook and awful defense in the second half (75 points allowed) had the Pacers missing out on an opportunity for a win during a week that includes a couple of very important games for playoff standings.

Despite shooting 40 percent from behind the arc and attempting 33 foul shots, those eye-popping numbers offensively couldn’t mask the disappointing performance at the other end of the floor.

The Pacers were outrebounded by 18.

Malcolm Brogdon scored 26 for Indiana. Rui Hachimura had 26 for Washington.

Jeremy Lamb left Monday’s loss with a sprained toe. Doug McDermott didn’t play due to an ankle injury.

The Pacers (21-24) will now return home Wednesday to take on Victor Oladipo and his new Heat team.

Three Things Learned

1. They Had Westbrook: This one can be summed up as the Wizards had the best player on the floor and that was so apparent in the 4th quarter. No knock on Domantas Sabonis, but Russell Westbrook did whatever he wanted down the stretch. Posting up, pulling up, or as a distributor, Westbrook turned back the clock to look like his old MVP-self. He put up numbers on Monday we’ve never seen in the NBA before. Indiana had a 6-point lead past the mid-way point of the 4th quarter, before Westbrook took the game over. Simply, Indiana had zero answer for Westbrook.

2. Defensive Problems Persist: A massive night for an Indiana opponent occurred despite Myles Turner playing, and the Wizards not having their best player. The Pacers gave up a whopping 75 points in the second half. Defending Westbrook was obviously the major problem. It continues to come down to the Pacers not having the ability to contain dribble penetration. Nate Bjorkgren wants his players to be aggressive on the catch. The risk with that is it makes you susceptible, and that’s especially the case when you lack the length/athleticism that’s needed to defend the perimeter. This is something that has hurt Indiana all year long.

3. Circle This One: Leading by 6 with 5 minutes to go on Monday, this is one that the Pacers let get away. That’s particularly the case when you factor in Washington not having Bradley Beal. In yet another game where the Pacers faced a team without its best player, the inability to close one out showed up again. What stings about this one is Washington is one of the worst teams in the East, so this was an extremely winnable game. Also, the Pacers are facing a week with critical home games coming against Miami and Charlotte, with a back-to-back then in San Antonio on Saturday. Indiana just isn’t in a spot where they can pass up on too many of these.

Pacers Upcoming Schedule

-Heat (Wednesday, 3/31, at 7:00 PM)

-Hornets (Friday, 4/2, at 8:00 PM)

-@Spurs (Saturday, 4/3, at 9:00 PM)

-Bulls (Tuesday, 4/6, at 7:00 PM)

-Timberwolves (Wednesday, 4/7, at 7:00 PM

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