The Washington Wizards entered their Play-In Tournament opener against the Boston Celtics understanding they had the security blanket.
That is no longer the case, as they host the Indiana Pacers in a win or go home situation. The winner will advance to face the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, while the loser begins their offseason.
In many respects, it's been a rocky 2020-21 season for both of these teams, with their postseason hopes coming down to one game.
Where to Watch
Date: Friday, May 20
Time: 8:00 a.m. (IST)
TV: Sony Ten 1/3
Location: Capital One Arena, Washington, DC
Both the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers come into the game with injury clouds lingering over star players.
The Wizards will be sweating on the health of Bradley Beal, who is continuing to play through a hamstring issue. By his usual lofty standards, Beal was quiet against the Celtics, finishing with 22 points on 10-for-25 shooting from the floor. Stretching and rubbing his hamstring on multiple occassions during the contest, it's clear Beal is far from 100 percent healthy.
The Pacers on the other hand will be without Caris LeVert, who missed the win against the Charlotte Hornets due to health and safety protocols. Already without Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon is playing through a hamstring concern of his own, with the point guard conceding it is impacting his play.
"When you're dealing with hamstring issues it can be dangerous so there is a bit of hesitation when you're out there.," Brogdon said postgame. "Tonight I wasn't going to go for any rebounds in a crowd, I'm not jumping as high and consciously or unconsciously you are thinking of things to avoid but overall I felt good. I'm glad we got the win."
welcome back, @MalcolmBrogdon7 🙌 pic.twitter.com/kEYxeG7vUb- Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) May 18, 2021
Despite missing personnel, the Pacers dominated the Hornets from start to finish, using a balanced scoring attack in the blowout win. Recent signing Oshae Brissett produced the performance of his young career, with the 22-year-old Canadian leading all scorers with 23 points.
For Washington to advance, they will need more from Russell Westbrook, whose recent hot stetch of form was curtailed against the Celtics as they repeatedly dared him to shoot from outside the paint. Westbrook managed just 20 points on 6-for-18 shooting while tallying just five assists -- his lowest assist total since April 3 against the Dallas Mavericks.
Bradley Beal breaks free for the right-handed slam in #PhantomCam!@WashWizards 54@celtics 52- NBA (@NBA) May 19, 2021
Watch #StateFarmPlayIn WIN TO GET IN action on TNT pic.twitter.com/Eer3rKGUoz
Aside from Beal and Westbrook, the Wizards will be desperate for any contributions from the role players, particularly in relation to outside shooting, with the squad combining to connect on just three of their 21 attempts from beyond the arc against Boston. Sharpshooter Davis Bertans looms as an x-factor for Washington after managing just four points on 0-for-7 shooting from three.
Washington should come in the contest full of confidence, having won all three of their meetings during the 2020-21 regular season. All of those wins will remain in the memory bank, given they were all played after March 29.
Star comparison during regular season meetings
While the performance of role players could swing the game, the above numbers from the All-Star players on both the Wizards and Pacers have been out of this world, with Westbrook remarkably just two rebounds shy of averaging a 20-20-20 triple-double.
The Pacers would be well served to take a look at how the Celtics defended Westbrook in the opening Play-In game. It might just be the difference between their season continuing or coming to a close.
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Kane Pitman (@KanePitman): Washington Wizards
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