Washington – The Washington Wizards showed their ability to bounce back on Thursday with a blowout win over the Indiana Pacers that sent them into the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal were back in top form, combining for 43 points and leading a 16-0 second quarter run, and Rui Hachimura scored 18 while grabbing four rebounds and recording two assists in a 142-115 victory in an elimination game in the NBA's play-in tournament.
"I think we came out with a good energy tonight from the beginning. Especially defensively, we were locked in," Hachimura said.
The win comes two days after a frustrating 118-100 loss to the Boston Celtics in the play-in opener.
"I am excited about our group," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "I knew we would bounce back and I am glad we did it on both ends of the floor.
"It feels great anytime you stick together through tough times and still fight for one another. It hasn't been easy but the easy part of it was coaching this group."
The Wizards, who missed out on the seventh seed by falling to the Celtics on Tuesday, will face the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round of the playoffs beginning Sunday.
"I think we've got to make a statement in the first game (that) we're just not playing around, we're here to win games," Hachimura said. "We've just got to be physical. That's the key to win those games."
The 23-year-old from Toyama Prefecture will become the first Japanese player to take the floor in the NBA playoffs when the best-of-seven series tips off.
"It means a lot. I've never been in the playoffs, but everybody (who has been) says it's different to the regular season. It's a different intensity, physicality, everything. So I'm excited," he said.
In the newly introduced play-in tournament, teams ranked seventh to 10th in the regular season battled for the seventh and eighth playoff seeds in their respective conferences.
The loss eliminated the Pacers and ended the franchise's streak of five consecutive playoff appearances.
Beale finished with 25 points and Westbrook delivered 18 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds for the Wizards, who reached the postseason for the first time since the 2017-18 season, when they lost to the Toronto Raptors in the first round.
Beal made four three-pointers and also had five rebounds and four assists while playing 28 minutes. He sat out the final quarter of the one-sided contest to rest his strained left hamstring.
Washington's Daniel Gafford had 15 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots, while Raul Neto added 14 points. Anthony Gill had 10 points.
Washington shot 58% from the field and broke the game open with a 16-0 run in the second quarter that the Pacers never recovered from at Capital One Arena in Washington.
The score was tied 34 -34 when the Wizards went on their run. Robin Lopez scored six points during the burst.
"That was a difficult part," Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren said of the second quarter. "When you give this team confidence, they play very well. We had a hard time with them this year."
The Wizards finished the regular season as one of the hottest teams in the league, winning 17 of their final 23 games. They won all four games against the Pacers this season, averaging 139.7 points.
Indiana's Malcolm Brogdon scored 24 points and Domantas Sabonis recorded 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists before fouling out for Indiana.
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