Wizards-Pacers: A Look Back at a Gruesome Regular Season Series
USA Today Sports
To be sure, there were actually worse single-game performances by teams in the 2013-14 regular season. On February 9th against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Philadelphia 76ers shot 27.0% from the field, a full 1.2% less accurate than the second-worst team shooting performance of the year. On March 28th against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Los Angeles Lakers allowed their opponent a 67.1 field goal percentage. On March 6th, the Lakers received a beatdown quite unlike any of the season’s plethora of beatdowns, losing by a margin of 48 points at the hands of the Clippers.
On January 10th, when the Washington Wizards traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana, they got thoroughly and decisively blown out. This much is true. It was no doubt the Wizards’ worst performance of the season, losing the game by a margin that would be their season-worst, 27 points. But was it one of the very worst performances of the entire NBA season? Probably not, once the advanced metrics have been dug into. The Wizards committed less turnovers than the Pacers (14 to 15), blocked more shots (7 to 1), and snagged more steals (8 to 6).
However, one can hardly expect players participating in an NBA basketball game to tally all the stats in the midst of play. While the Wizards were getting curbstomped in ways that would make Wile E. Coyote grimace in pain, they were ceaselessly confronted by the merciless scoreboard:
On January 10th, the Wizards scored only 66 points in an entire, regulation, 48-minute basketball game. It was the worst single-game total in the league this year.
That’s 37 points by halftime, 51 at the start of the fourth quarter, and 4 points in the last six minutes of the game because, well, why bother.
Nobody on the Wizards was injured: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat, and Nenê all played their regular starter’s minutes, albeit while chucking up bricks like mad. The Wizards shot 32.1% from the field. This can be attributed to the Pacers’ renowned interior defense. As mighty as the Pacers’ frontcourt is, however, it remains unknown how the Wizards shot an abominable 39.1% from the free throw line (a.k.a.: a skosh worse than Andre Drummond).
The Wizards were coming of a back-to-back and tired, you say? Very considerate: but no.
The ‘Zards just got straight-up manhandled by the Pacers. Indiana grabbed 61 rebounds compared to the Wizards’ 41. Washington managed a season-worst 13 total assists, the offense clogged like the arteries of a loyal McDonald’s patron. The loss dropped the Wizards to 16-18, meantime elevating the Pacers to a mighty 29-7.
Now, since that fateful January night, the Wizards have posted a 32-21 record, while the Pacers have since (comparatively) hobbled along at a 31-22 clip (first-round results included for both teams). During the Pacers’ lone previous visit to the District of Columbia, in late March, the game once again ended with end-of-bench players filling out garbage time—only the Wizards found themselves on top, 91-78.
The lesson, here: beware of using regular season match-ups as compelling evidence for post-season predictions. So much has changed since that sorry 66-point game.