Beal, Wizards open season with 114-107 win over Pacers
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Bradley Beal played smooth and efficient — just the way coach Wes Unseld Jr. wanted.
Beal, a three-time All-Star, scored 23 points, Kyle Kuzma added 20 and Kristaps Porzingis had 15 points and 10 rebounds as the Washington Wizards led wire to wire to beat the rebuilding Indiana Pacers 114-107 Wednesday night.
The Wizards won consecutive openers for the first time since 2004-05.
“We know teams are going to heat him up, using him as a facilitator,” Unseld said. “I thought he did a pretty good job, It was pretty good balance tonight.”
Indiana was led by Tyrese Haliburton’s 26 points and rookie Bennedict Mathurin’s 19. But after Indiana gave up 12 of the first 18 points, Washington kept the Pacers mostly out of reach.
The young Pacers looked jittery from the opening tip and never quite got into rhythm, and the vastly more experienced Wizards took full advantage behind All-Stars Porzingis and Beal, who played in his first regular-season game since signing a five-year, max contract extension.
Beal and Porzingis looked every bit the part. They needed less than six minutes to make it a double-digit game. When Indiana used a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to 44-43 midway through the second quarter, Beal and Porzingis responded with nine points in a 12-2 spurt.
The Pacers never got closer than five points in the second half — until Mathurin’s basket with 31.2 seconds left made it 110-107. But he missed the ensuing free throw and Washington closed it out at the line.
“I thought our guys really competed,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “We made mistakes — a lot of them were at inopportune times, but our spirit was good and we certainly can, and will, get better.”
Wizards: Beal had six assists to move within six of surpassing Rod Strickland (2,712) for third on the franchise’s career list. … Kuzma grabbed 13 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He had 24 double-doubles last season. … The Wizards ended a two-game losing streak in Indianapolis.
Pacers: Buddy Hield finished with 16 points and had four 3-pointers after finishing second in the NBA with 262 3s. … Jalen Smith had 16 points and eight rebounds. … Haliburton had seven assists. … Indiana’s overall losing streak reached 11 (10 losses to end last season) and the Pacers have now lost 10 straight to Eastern Conference foes. … Aaron Nesmith (sore left foot) and Jalen Smith (sore right knee) played despite being listed as questionable.
Pacers fans got their first real look at Mathurin, and he made quite an impression.
The No. 6 overall pick in June’s draft made four of his first six shots, including two 3-pointers, in the first half, scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds. He made 7 of 15 with three 3s.
“He’s going to learn a lot,” Carlisle said. “Look, this is Ben’s first game and he has tools that really nobody else on this team has.”
Pacers center Myles Turner was expected to make his first start since Jan. 14, but was a late scratch after hurting his ankle in warmups. Coach Rick Carlisle wasn’t even aware anything happened when he spoke with reporters less than two hours before the tip.
Wizards forward Deni Avdija left late in the first half with a sprained right ankle after colliding with Indiana guard Chris Duarte. Avdija remained on the floor through the entire timeout, then struggled to put weight on his leg before limping straight to the locker room. Unseld said Avdija was cleared to play in the second half even though he did not.
Wizards: Face Chicago in Wednesday’s home opener.
Pacers: San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich makes his only trip this season to his home state Friday.
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