Scott Brooks looked around the league, noticed the scoreboards and felt a tinge of uneasiness. With the NBA's All-Star break teasingly close, a player's mind can wander and Brooks felt the recent lopsided results reflected the lack of focus.
"A lot of strange scores the last couple of nights," Brooks said before the Washington Wizards met the Indiana Pacers.
Brooks wanted to make sure his team took its final game before the break seriously. He need not have worried — there was no lack of focus inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, only a show of strength and single-mindedness.
Washington never trailed in an impressive 111-98 conquest, earning its fourth consecutive win and 18th in the past 21.
The Wizards enter the break with a 34-21 mark, a two-game lead in the third spot in the Eastern Conference standings and growing confidence they could be poised for a deep postseason run.
"I've never been even this close to winning this many games this early in my career," said John Wall, who has spent his seven years as a pro in Washington and completed his ninth consecutive double double (20 points, 12 assists) to match the longest stretch of his career. "We believe what we're doing out there on the court."
Washington has embraced an inside-out attack that allows everyone on the floor to excel. The Wizards shot 51.8 percent Thursday night, with each starter taking at least 10 shots and reaching double figures. The starting five accounted for 87 percent of the total and led the 3-point attack by matching a season-best with 15 made 3s out of 29 attempts.
With less than six minutes remaining in the final quarter, Otto Porter Jr. tied his career high with six 3-pointers and scored a game-high 25 points to go with eight rebounds while Markieff Morris (8-for-12 overall, 3-for-4 from the arc) contributed 21 points and seven rebounds.
"It's just tough to guard us, man. We have so many threats," said Bradley Beal, who made four 3s and finished with 19 points. "You forget about Keef and you forget about [Marcin] Gortat and then you key in on Otto, then you got me. You key in on me, then you got Otto. Then [Wall] is driving to the basket and has his game going."
As the Wizards coasted, Wall heard mocking chants of "overrated" at the Pacers' home. He waved his fingers as if to ask for more, knowing full well his play had silenced the taunts.
—Candace Buckner, The Washington Post
Arena Football League: AFL veterans Josh Victorian and Rory Nixon and rookies Kamal Johnson and Derrell Johnson have signed with the Baltimore Brigade, the team announced Thursday. A cornerback and Louisiana Tech graduate, Victorian signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and was released before the season began. He played the past two seasons for the AFL's now-defunct Los Angeles Kiss. Derrell Johnson, a Baltimore native and defensive lineman, was an All-Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association selection as a senior at Cardinal Gibbons. A standout at East Carolina, he has played with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League and the Arizona Cardinals. Nixon spent the past three seasons as a fullback for the now-defunct Spokane Shock and the KissA Hampton native, Nixon played at Saint Augustine's. Kamal Johnson, also a defensive lineman, signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2014 after going undrafted out of Temple.
Men's college basketball: Host Wagner (13-12, 9-6 Northeast Conference) earned a 69-65 come-from-behind victory over Mount St. Mary's (14-14, 12-3). After trailing for most of the game, the Seahawks took a 57-56 lead on a layup by Mike Aaman (10 points) with 3:20 left in the game. Wagner held on to its lead. Junior Robinson had 19 points for Mount St. Mary's. ... Loyola Maryland will host the "Lace 'Em Up to Fight Cancer" game Sunday in support of the Go4theGoal Foundation, which helps improve the lives of children battling cancer by providing financial support, developing and implementing hospital programs, funding research and granting personal wishes. In support of the initiative, Greyhounds players will wear gold shoelaces representing the fight against pediatric cancer, as they take on the Colgate. Students and fans are encouraged to support the foundation by purchasing the shoelaces at Go4theGoal.org for $5/pair.
More college baseball: Maryland junior shortstop Kevin Smith was named to the 55-player preseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, which goes to the top amateur player in the country. ... Navy was picked in the Patriot League preseason poll to finish in second place behind Holy Cross. the Midshipmen received five first-place votes and 43 points compared with six and 46 for the Crusaders. The All-Patriot preseason team included Navy sophomore starting pitcher Noah Song, senior catcher Adrian Chinnery, senior shortstop Travis Blue and junior designated hitter Stephen Born. ... Baseball America named Coppin State senior infielder Bryant Miranda the seventh-best prospect in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Coppin State pitcher Joshua Hancock the conference's preseason Freshman of the Year.
Men's college soccer: Navy named McDonogh alumnus Alex Yi an assistant coach. A former FC Potomac standout who played at UCLA, Yi spent the past three seasons as the top assistant at San Francisco.
Women's college volleyball: Maryland named Kristin Carpenter an assistant coach Wednesday. A two-time national championship-winning player at Penn State, Carpenter spent last season as an assistant at Oklahoma. The program also promoted Adam Hughes to associate head coach; he has been an assistant at Maryland since 2014. ... Hood named Dana Mitchell coach. The James Madison alumna had been boys and girls coach at Blake, her alma mater.