Before Sunday afternoon’s game, the visitors’ locker room at Bankers Life Fieldhouse looked like a rehabilitation unit.
The Washington Wizards were occupying the space. And less than 19 hours after grinding out a triple-overtime win the previous night, players needed to quickly recover for their matinee matchup against the Indiana Pacers.
So Markieff Morris buzzed his inner thighs with a Hypervolt, a handheld massaging device. Thomas Bryant rested on the floor, his legs strapped into a pair of NormaTec recovery boots intended for eliminating muscle soreness and promoting circulation. Other teammates stretched out on the trainer’s table. This physical therapy, however, did little to remedy tired legs and minds as the Wizards produced their lowest scoring output of the season in a 105-89 loss.
John Wall, who returned to the lineup after missing Saturday’s game with flulike symptoms, committed seven of the team’s 22 turnovers and missed six of his seven shot attempts. Bradley Beal, who played 54 minutes and scored 40 points the previous night, didn’t have his jumper and shot just 2-for-11. Each player scored just seven points. Besides the offensive inefficiency — the team’s 38.6-percent shooting was also a season low — the Wizards could not match Indiana on the glass and got outrebounded by 20.
“We turned the ball over way too many times and we couldn’t rebound the basketball,” coach Scott Brooks said.
Playing a 5 p.m. game on the second day of a back-to-back — on the road against the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, no less — after reaching triple overtime seems like a cruel twist of the NBA schedule. But the loss still counts, and Washington dropped back to eight games under .500 at 13-21 and secured the second-worst road record in the conference (4-15) before Christmas.
“It plays a factor,” Beal said about the long night Saturday factoring into Sunday’s performance.
Beal tacked on nearly 24 more minutes, pushing his two-day load to 78.
“We’re not going to play the naive game,” Beal said. “Tired, but it’s the schedule. You have to wake up and be ready to go and play. It’s an early game today. It’s kind of a little messed up, but there’s no excuse . . . you got to keep playing and do whatever it takes to win, and we didn’t do that.”
According to the estimates of several Wizards, the team arrived at its downtown Indianapolis hotel at 2:30 a.m. Sam Dekker said he wound down 30 minutes later. Morris said he couldn’t sleep until 4 a.m. As a team, it seemed as if the Wizards collectively needed a nap by the third quarter.
Even though Beal missed all three of his shot attempts in the first quarter and Wall piled up turnovers, the Wizards played Indiana close early.
After not finishing a play at the rim, Bryant sprawled out on the floor — either frustrated about being unable to replicate his 14-for-14 shooting from the previous night or just too tired to get back up. Beal air-balled a short baseline jumper, which seemed to surprise him. These flashes of fatigue, however, didn’t last long, and the Wizards only trailed 27-25 after the opening quarter.
Then the weariness began to manifest as the Wizards made only seven of 20 shots in the second quarter and allowed nine fast-break points to the Pacers. In the third quarter, after Washington cut the deficit to 60-56, Indiana put the game away with a 14-0 run. Indiana outscored Washington 31-18 in the decisive period.
“The guys never mentioned it today during our breakfast,” Brooks said about fatigue. “They didn’t mention today before the game. They didn’t mention during the game that they were tired, and that’s good. But . . . playing a three-overtime game with an early start, 5 o’clock start, that’s a reality. But sometimes that happens.”