WASHINGTON (AP) — There were boos early and at the end for the winless Washington Wizards, who dropped to a franchise-worst 0-9 with a 96-89 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
Indiana’s David West scored 13 of his season-best 30 points in the fourth quarter, and Roy Hibbert broke out of a slump with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Still without point guard John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, and starting center Nene — and no one seems to be sure when either injured player will make his season debut — the Wizards are the only team in the NBA without a victory. They started 0-8 a year ago, the club’s previous worst opening to a season.
They were led Monday by rookie Bradley Beal’s 18 points, 17 coming in the second half.
Jordan Crawford scored 11 on 2-for-12 shooting for Washington.
Jeered by the announced crowd of 14,426 in the opening minutes and at the closing buzzer, the Wizards actually earned a standing ovation at the end of the third quarter after whittling a 20-point deficit to 71-67 on Shaun Livingston’s jumper entering the fourth.
Washington went on an 18-2 run to close the third, including 16 points in a row, with Beal scoring nine.
And when Chris Singleton made a jumper while getting fouled with 3 minutes left in the game, Washington suddenly was within 86-85. Alas, Singleton failed to convert the three-point play, missing the free throw that would have tied the score, and West’s jumper at the other end put the Pacers back up by three.
As West’s shot went through the net, Wizards coach Randy Wittman raised his arms then put his hands atop his head in a resigned pose. Moments later, Wittman called time out after West sank yet another jumper to make it 90-85.
Before the game, Wittman — with hands stuffed in his pants pockets and the hint of a smile across his face — spoke earnestly about what it’s going to take for his struggling team to get better, including lineup changes.
“Hey, when you’re 0-8, you’re trying a lot of different things,” he said. “That’s what I do.”
Not exactly going out on a limb, Wittman added: “This team’s going to win games. I really believe that.”
They’re still waiting for just one victory.
Hibbert, who played college home games for Georgetown at the Wizards’ arena, scored in single digits in seven of the season’s first 11 games, including only six points on 3-of-10 shooting in Indiana’s 88-76 loss at the New York Knicks on Sunday.
Even though the Pacers were playing on the second night of a back-to-back set, they were not the ones who came out sluggish Monday.
No, the Wizards did.
Jan Vesely, the thus-far-disappointing No. 6 overall pick last year, got his second consecutive start and made a 10-foot hook from near the baseline on the game’s opening possession — and Washington proceeded to miss its next seven field-goal attempts.
When Washington called a timeout 3 minutes in, trailing 13-4, the evening’s first boos rang out.
It took about 5 minutes for the Wizards to record their second field goal, on a 7-foot jumper by Jordan Crawford.
Midway through the first quarter, with the hosts down 17-6, Wittman yanked three starters and inserted Beal, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin.
Didn’t help. With about 3 minutes left in the first quarter, the Wizards trailed 24-7 and had twice as many turnovers (four) and personal fouls (four) as field goals made (2 for 12).
Indiana led by as many as 19 in that quarter, at 26-7 on Gerald Green’s 19-foot jumper, before Washington woke up and began to eat away at the deficit.
The Wizards got as close as within seven in the first half. But right after Earl Barron’s 15-foot bank shot as the shot-clock expired made it 48-41 with 3.1 seconds left, he fouled D.J. Augustin, whose free throws put the margin at 50-41 at halftime.
The second half brought more runs to make things interesting, but also more missed shots and wayward passes and, in the end, one more loss for Washington.
Notes: The Wizards play at Atlanta on Wednesday … Indiana is 5-7. … Pacers coach Frank Vogel was asked before the game whether he’d considered taking Hibbert out of the starting lineup and using him as a reserve. “No. We think about doing a lot of things to get him going,” Vogel replied, “but that’s not one of them.” Added Vogel: “He knows he’s better than he’s doing.” … Wittman, who played college basketball at Indiana, was not exactly a fence-sitter about the changes to that school’s Big Ten Conference. “I don’t like it all. … We got Maryland and Rutgers? That’s not Midwest,” he said with a chuckle. “Come on. That answer your question?”