Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/19/12
WASHINGTON -- In the basketball-loving nation's capital, the letter "W" stands for Wizards or Washington, but not "win" -- not yet. The Washington Wizards fell to 0-9, the worst start in franchise history, as the Indiana Pacers snapped a six-game road losing streak with a 96-89 win Monday at the Verizon Center. Despite a furious second-half rally, Washington broke its previous mark of eight straight losses to open a season, set during the truncated 2011-12 campaign. The Pacers (5-7) held on despite blowing most of a 20-point, third-quarter lead against the NBA's only winless team. David West scored a season-high 30 points for Indiana, and a late-night phone call helped Pacers center Roy Hibbert break out of a prolonged slump. Hibbert finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and he matched West with four blocked shots. Slow starts have plagued Washington throughout the season, and the misfiring Wizards trailed 26-7 in the first quarter. Near rallies have been another staple of the team's early-season frustrations. Down 69-49 with 5:08 remaining in the third quarter, the Wizards closed with an 18-2 run and pulled within one point inside the final four minutes before coming up with another close-but-no-cigar performance. "We've got to figure how to play a game, a whole game," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "I don't know who to start, who to play, who not to play. It's a confusion of different guys every game, whether starters or bench, bench or starters. We have no consistency in our group of play. To get off to a start like we did tonight, there is no excuse." Wizards rookie Bradley Beal missed all four of his shots in the first half, but he scored 17 of his team-high 18 points in the second half, including nine during the third-quarter surge. "That's probably the worst start that we've ever had," said Beal, who combined with Shaun Livingston to spark a 16-0, third-quarter spurt. "Guys didn't have energy, but we really picked it up." Washington trailed 71-67 entering the final quarter, but Beal continued attacking, scoring six early points, and Chris Singleton's runner with 3:30 remaining pared the deficit down to 86-85. Fouled on the play, Singleton missed the potential tying free throw. West, who shot 10-for-14 from the field and was perfect on 10 free throws, made consecutive jump shots, extending the Pacers' lead to 90-85 with two minutes remaining. Behind a strong shooting first half and West's 10 points, Indiana led by as many as 19 and held a 50-41 lead at intermission, only its second halftime lead this season. Ranked next to last in the NBA in both scoring and field goal percentage -- ahead of only the Wizards in both categories -- the Pacers made six of their first seven shots, led by double digits less than five minutes in and led 28-13 after the first quarter. Hibbert entered the game shooting 37.2 percent. Against New York in Sunday's loss, he was even worse, prompting his coach to confer with his starting center. Something clicked as Hibbert made his first three attempts and 8 of 10 overall Monday. "I made a phone call to Roy Hibbert last night," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "He told me he was going to have a big night. He promised me 20 and 10, and he delivered. He delivered with 20 and 12." An All-Star last season, Hibbert scored in single digits during seven of the Pacers' first 11 games. "I just wanted to be aggressive," Hibbert said. "I've been playing like some crap, and I'm sick and tired of it. It's time for a change." Returning to familiar territory helped. The 7-foot-2 center hails from nearby suburban Maryland and played for Georgetown on the same Verizon Center court. "I said to myself after last night's game that it's going to be a perfect scenario," Hibbert said. "I'm going to have a good game, and it's going to be on my home court from college." Washington's starters missed eight of 10 first-quarter attempts, and the Wizards shot 26.3 percent (5 of 19) without a single player scoring more than two points in the opening quarter. For the game, Washington's starters shot 8 of 37, making two fewer baskets than West alone. Indiana shot 53.1 percent (17 of 32) in the first half, extending the lead to 32-13, but also committed 15 of its 21 turnovers. Crawford scored nine of his 11 first-half points in the second quarter as the Wizards pulled within seven before fouling Indiana with 2.2 seconds remaining, leading to a pair of D.J. Augustin free throws. NOTES: Beal, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, finished 4 of 12 from the field. ... Indiana returns home to play New Orleans on Wednesday while Washington plays at Atlanta. ... The teams will not meet again until Jan. 2 in Indiana.
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