INDIANAPOLIS -- Considering how poorly the Washington Bullets shot in the second half last night, it figures Pervis Ellison couldn't connect when he tried to punch Rik Smits.
Ellison tried to get at Smits during a fourth-quarter altercation, but, like the Bullets, the 6-foot-10 center couldn't hit his target. The team and Ellison left Market Square Arena after a 116-96 defeat before a crowd of 10,008.
"Right now I'm out of answers," said Bullets coach Wes Unseld. "I'm frustrated with losing, but the season has a long way to go."
After recovering from a nine-point deficit in the first half to trail 55-53 at intermission, the Bullets looked listless in the third period, as Indiana put together a 17-4 surge that took them out of the game.
The Pacers ran the lead to 90-69 in the closing minutes of the quarter and maintained at least a 13-point edge the rest of the way.
The only excitement in the fourth quarter came from the brief Ellison-Smits bout, in which neither player landed a clean shot, but Ellison broke free from Indiana forward Sam Mitchell's bear hug in trying to get at Indiana's 7-foot-4 center after play had been stopped with 5:06 left.
"I'm always determined to get a piece of him," said Ellison, who scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds before the altercation and subsequent ejection of both. "It built up over the game. It happened more than once."
Ellison complained that Smits, instead of keeping his arms raised in the offensive post, would thrust his elbows back, often hitting Ellison in the face.
"When that happened, I told the officials early in the game," Ellison said. "You can keep that arm extended without coming back with it."
Harvey Grant led the Bullets with 20 points. Larry Stewart added 16 points, tying a career high with 10 free throws (in 13 tries) and eight rebounds.
The Bullets hit 50 percent from the floor in the first half but 36.7 percent in the second to finish at 42.7. Washington also out-rebounded the Pacers 23-18 in the first half, but finished with a 47-46 deficit.
Washington dropped its third straight game heading into a three-game homestand that begins Friday against Phoenix, which has the NBA's best record.
All of Indiana's starters scored at least 15 points in topping the Bullets for the fourth straight time. Reggie Miller led with 25 points.