WASHINGTON (AP) — Paul George thinks the Indiana Pacers should be a top-four team in the Eastern Conference.
A loss to the 10th-place Washington Wizards would have been a step in the wrong direction.
George scored 38 points, including two free throws with 3 seconds left to lift the Pacers to a 100-99 victory over the Wizards on Saturday night.
“He was red-hot, carried the load (early),” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “And then he continued into the second half, and then down at clutch time, just made big basket after big basket.”
George, coming off a 35-point effort on Friday night, shot 13 of 22 from the field and converted all eight of his free throws. He scored 16 points in the first quarter and 11 in the fourth.
Nene hit 1 of 2 free throws to put Washington ahead with 11 seconds left.
Indiana inbounded and George, rather than shoot a jumper, drove the baseline and was fouled by Alan Anderson.
“I definitely got hit,” George said. “That was the only thing I was doing is trying to put pressure on the refs, trying to make them make a call.”
John Wall missed a contested jumper at the buzzer.
The Pacers shot 19 for 20 on free throws while Washington managed just 15 of 24.
Wall had 25 points and 12 assists for Washington, which began play 1 1/2 games behind seventh-place Indiana.
“We could be positioned a lot better than where we are,” George said. “Of the eight playoff teams … I don’t think we should be below the four.
Indiana took the season series 2-1 and holds the tiebreaker should the teams finish tied in the standings.
“This was important, no question,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “Now we’ve got to go out and make it up somewhere.”
Washington, which had won six straight at home, managed just 35 points in the second half.
“I think the second half we didn’t have a lot of pace in the game,” Wall said. “They were scoring and getting to the free-throw line a lot.”
Jordan Hill’s two free throws gave Indiana its first lead since the first quarter, 86-85 with 8:20 left.
Wall then converted a pair of three-point plays — the second after he made an acrobatic layup and was fouled — to give the Wizards a 93-91 lead.
George’s 3-pointer later pulled Indiana to 97-96.
George then shot an air ball, but Hill grabbed it and scored, giving Indiana a 98-97 lead with 59 seconds left.
After Wall hit 1 of 2 free throws to tie it, George missed a jumper from the wing.
The Wizards led by as many as 14 points in the first half.
BEAL INJURED IN RETURN AS STARTER
Wizards guard Bradley Beal (12 points) suffered a sprained pelvis when he took a hard fall following a third quarter collision with Indiana’s Myles Turner. Beal, starting for the first time since Feb. 11th, had to be helped to the locker room and did not return. Wittman didn’t update Beal’s condition after the game.
MILES NEARING RETURN
Vogel said Indiana’s G/F C.J. Miles (strained left calf), was working on the court before the game and would be a game-time decision, but Miles missed his eighth game in a row.
Pacers: Monta Ellis had 17 points and George Hill added 12 for the Pacers. . Indiana put F Chase Budinger on waivers. He averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds in 49 games.
Wizards: The 64 points in the first half matched Washington’s season-high for the opening two periods. … Nene went to the locker room holding a towel over his right eye following a collision early in the second quarter. He returned later in the quarter with a bandage above the eye.
Pacers: Host San Antonio on Monday.
Wizards: At Portland on Tuesday.