INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Washington keeps finding ways to break through old, stubborn barriers.
Even in the unlikeliest place of all — Indiana.
Bradley Beal scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, Trevor Ariza added 22 and the Wizards held off the Pacers with a stout defense over the final 7 1/2 minutes Monday night to get a 102-96 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It was Washington’s first second-round win in 32 years.
“We know it’s a tough building to play in. We haven’t won here in a while,” Ariza said after the Wizards snapped a 12-game losing streak in Indy. “Why wouldn’t this be the best time to come here and get a win — in the playoffs?”
The Wizards know there is a lot more work to do in this best-of-seven series.
Game 2 is Wednesday in Indianapolis.
So far, though, things have gone well for the upstart Wizards.
After clinching their first playoff berth since 2008, the Wizards have advanced to the second round for the first time since 2005, won at Indiana for the first time since April 18, 2007, and have their first second-round win since April 28, 1982.
Washington has opened these playoffs with four straight road wins and put the pressure right back on the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
It doesn’t get better than that for a young team that beat Chicago 4-1 in the opening round.
“The way I think about it, I’m 20 years old, I’m playing in the playoffs, something I’ve always dreamed of. Why not embrace it?” Beal said. “Why not accept the challenge and have fun with it? That’s all I’m doing — having fun.”
For the Pacers, it was another kick in the pants.
After salvaging their season with two straight wins to beat Atlanta in seven games, Indiana lost Game 1 for the second straight series and for many of the same reasons.
They were outrebounded 53-36 and were outscored 19-5 on second-chance points. They got beat outside as Washington made a franchise playoff-record 10 3-pointers with Ariza going 6 of 6. They got no points and no rebounds from 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert, who has looked nothing like the All-Star he was during the first half of the season.
And when they were desperately trying to rally in the fourth quarter, Indiana went 7 minutes without a basket.
Things got so frustrating that even the emotional Lance Stephenson lost his cool and snapped at coach Frank Vogel when he was yanked with 1 minute to play in the third quarter. Vogel said he took Stephenson out because he didn’t want him playing 48 minutes. Stephenson said he was mostly mad at himself.
“I waited too late,” Stephenson said. “Third quarter was too late to turn (it) up. I mean we need to come out first quarter and turn (it) up and get everybody going so the second half we could already have that pace.”
Paul George and George Hill scored 18 points each to lead the Pacers, though half of Hill’s points came on three 3s in the final minute when it was too late to come back. David West added 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The Wizards trailed once all game, 31-30, and retook the lead on the ensuing possession.
But Washington won this one in large part because it beat Indiana at its own game.
Marcin Gortat had 15 rebounds, six on the offensive end where Washington held a 17-6 advantage. The defense limited Indiana to 40.7 percent shooting and never allowed them to get closer than six points until the final minute of the game.
By then it was too late.
Washington jumped to an 8-0 lead and led 28-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After the Pacers charged back to take the lead, the Wizards closed the half with a decisive 17-6 run to make it 56-43.
Washington took its biggest lead of the game, 68-52, midway through the third quarter with the Pacers in full catch-up mode. Indiana got within six late in the third, within seven early in the fourth and within five when Hill hit a 3 with 23.6 seconds to go.
That was as close the Pacers got.
“We won one game here in Indiana, but we still have to get three more,” Beal said. “We have to be more desperate each and every game.”
NOTES: Washington has won seven straight on the road and nine of its last 10 including the regular season. … Indiana held Washington to 66 points on Jan. 10, the lowest single-game point total in the NBA this season. It took the Wizards only 26:02 to top that mark Monday. … Washington shot 62.5 percent from 3-point range (10 of 16), the best against Indiana this season. … Robert Mathis and Reggie Wayne of the Colts attended the game.
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