WASHINGTON — Even the winning Indiana Pacers recognized the unsightly nature of their latest game against the Washington Wizards. All-Star forward Paul George and company would be happy if the remainder of the series continued in a similar slogging manner.
George scored 23 points and the Pacers held the Wizards to 30 points in the second half, pulling away for a 85-63 victory on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the second-round playoff series.
“This was probably the ugliest game of the postseason thus far,” George said unapologetically after Indiana held Washington to its fewest points in franchise history. “This is our style of basketball. Every now and then this team is fortunate to get hot offensively, but what we do is play defense.”
Center Roy Hibbert added 14 points for the top-seeded Pacers, who began taking control with a second-quarter run and outscored the Wizards 26-12 in the third quarter.
The NBA’s biggest curiosity because of their inexplicable laboring in recent weeks, the Pacers have won two straight in the best-of-seven series after losing Game 1 102-96 on Monday night.
Indiana led 34-33 at halftime thanks to a 13-1 spurt late in the second quarter. After the Wizards briefly pulled ahead at 37-36, Indiana ripped off 12 straight points starting with guard George Hill’s 3-pointer. The run ballooned to 23-7 as the Pacers’ staunch defense stymied Washington from all angles.
“I didn’t feel comfortable playing in that because they were slowing the ball down a little bit,” said guard Bradley Beal. The 20-year-old led the Wizards with 16 points, but finished 6-for-19 from the field. Power forward Nene missed 11 of 14 attempts as Washington shot 32.9 percent from the field.
“We had the worst offensive night,” Nene said. “It looked like we tried to miss shots.”
Washington’s two lowest scoring games of the regular season came against Indiana. Inability to push the pace certainly played a factor. Both teams scored eight fast-break points. Both parts of that statistic favor the grinding Pacers.
“We’re building habits,” George said.”
Wizards guard John Wall scored 15 points but committed seven turnovers — one more than his combined total in the previous five games.
“He’s got to stay aggressive,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “I thought he had some hesitation in his game tonight. He’s got to fight through it. We all do.”
Indiana converted 18 Washington turnovers into 21 points.
Though George continued to struggle this series from the field, finishing 6-for-15 in Game 3, he added eight rebounds and four assists while making nine of 10 free throws. Indiana was 16 of 21 from the line and Washington went 11 of 21 after going 5-for-12 in Wednesday’s Game 2 road loss.
Slow to start, Hibbert made six of nine shots from the field and finished with three blocks in his return to the arena where he played during his college career with Georgetown.
“His contributions during that (mid-game) run and really the whole night were maybe as important as anybody’s on our team,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.
Hibbert starred in Indiana’s 86-82 Game 2 win on Wednesday with 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field with nine rebounds.
Trailing 27-20, Indiana took the lead with a 13-1 run. Hibbert and George combined for 13 of the Pacers’ final 14 points.
Forward Trevor Ariza had 15 rebounds and scored all 12 of his points in the first half, during which he was 4-for-5 from the field. His teammates went nine of 36.
“We’ve struggled along the way, but I honestly feel like we’re getting back,” George said. “We’ve gotten to this point because of defense and that’s what we did tonight.”
NOTES: The Wizards previous low of 64 points came on Jan. 11, 2012. … F David West added 12 points for the Pacers. … Indiana F Luis Scola received a technical foul in the second quarter for shoving Wizards F Martell Webster in the back. … Washington starters Bradley Beal, Nene and Marcin Gortat shot a combined 4-for-22 from the field in the first half. … Among those in attendance included NBA commissioner Adam Silver. … Washington’s last home win in the second round or later came in the 1979 NBA Finals against the Seattle Supersonics. … At 22-19, the Wizards had the worst regular-season home record among the Eastern Conference playoff teams. Indiana went 21-20 on the road and 2-1 at Atlanta in the first season versus the Hawks. … Game 4 tips at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday in Washington with Game 5 at Indiana on Tuesday.
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