The Washington Wizards are moving on.
Behind 25 points from Bradley Beal, the Wizards dominated the Indiana Pacers, running out a 142-115 scoreline when it was all said and done.
Responding to a disappointing loss in Boston two nights earlier, the Wizards broke the game open with a 48-point third period to effectively end the game as they went into the fourth leading 114-83.
The reward for the win is a seven-game series with the No. 1 seed, Philadelphia 76ers. Before we move on, let's reflect on an impressive night for the Wizards.
Beal and Westbrook deliver
Inefficient against the Celtics, the Wizards' star duo rose to the occasion with the season on the line.
The above-mentioned 25 points for Beal came on 9-for-17 shooting from the field and 4-for-7 from three, while Westbrook tallied 18 points and 15 assists, registering 10 more dimes than he recorded against Boston.
The league's second-leading scorer through the regular season, Beal exploded for 16 in the third quarter alone.
Perhaps most importantly for Washington, they were able to limit minutes for Beal, who has been struggling with a hamstring complaint in recent games. Beal would see just 28 minutes of floor time, checking out of the game for the last time with 3:04 remaining in the third quarter.
The Wizards will now have two nights off before game one against the 76ers, who have been watching the Play-In tournament from home and will be well-rested.
HIGHLIGHTS: Bradley Beal dropped 25 points in 28 minutes tonight!#WizPacers | @RealDealBeal23 pic.twitter.com/pAdyy0bbGT- Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) May 21, 2021
Home court advantage back?
The win for the Wizards was a continuation of a Play-In Tournament trend. Through the first five games of the Play-In, each game has been won by the home team.
With the Wizards on a rampage during the third quarter, Westbrook fired up the home crowd, signaling for them to get out of their seats in a moment that head coach Scott Brooks highlighted postgame.
MOOOOOOOOD@russwest44 x @RealDealBeal23 pic.twitter.com/evh7nUyE1q- Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) May 21, 2021
"It was such a cool moment. I've had a lot of great moments with that young man. I love the guy to death and love how he competes," Brooks said. "That had to be the loudest five thousand fans in an arena I've ever heard. There are fifteen thousand seats empty but it was loud and they were so enthusiastic."
"Those fans got their money worth and I'm sure they appreciate the work that this team has done and put in and hopefully we made them proud."
Golden State Warriors fans will welcome this news, as they host the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow and attempt to lock up the final playoff seed on offer.
Team stat dominance
If the final scoreline wasn't evidence enough, the box score revealed the true dominance across the board for Washington.
On April 5, the Wizards held a 17-32 record to sit 15 games below .500.
Including the Play-In games, the Wizards have rattled off an 18-6 record since, joining a select group of teams to pull off such a turnaround.
The Wizards are the 6th team under the current playoff format (since 1984) to make the playoffs after being 15+ games below .500.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 21, 2021
None of the other teams made it out of the 1st round.
H/T @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/Zh2Iq6bO2R
What a difference a month can make.
Gafford continues rise
Former Chicago big man Daniel Gafford continues to impress in Washington.
Gafford came off the bench to finish with 15 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, with all of his swats coming in the first half when the game was still very much a contest. Brooks praised the young centers ability postgame.
ISH BEHIND HIS HEAD TO GAFF ‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️#WizPacers | @IshSmith pic.twitter.com/jKYhGNcaOc- Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) May 21, 2021
"Special. His athleticism. Give him credit, he's coachable, he wants to get better, he has an enthusiasm for the game," Brooks said. "From what I've seen from his the last few months, that's a big time pick up. Our guards love playing with him."
What's next for the Pacers
It's been a difficult season for Indiana, with injuries to key players eventually catching up with them when it mattered most. Unable to capture the consistency required to challenge in the postseason, the Pacers were without Myles Turner, Caris LeVert, T.J. Warren among others for the game against Washington.
Domantis Sabonis finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, while Malcolm Brogdon led all scorers with 24 points but it wasn't close to enough.
When fully healthy, the Pacers have proven they can push for home court in the East, they just weren't able to find their luck this season.
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