The “D” in DC does not represent defense.
Defense was optional in Wednesday night’s season opener between the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers. The Wiz did not choose this option during the 143-120 defeat at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Washington at least started scoring early. The good guys took a 12-4 lead thanks to the active play of $55 million man Deni Avdija. Off-season additions Tyus Jones and Danilo Gallinari combined for 22 points on perfect 9/9 shooting to hold the Wizards up 39-34 after one.
In the 2nd, it was Kyle Kuzma who led the offense with 11 of his 16 points in the first half. But after Washington led 42-37 two minutes into the quarter, the Pacers’ offense began to heat up. Indiana went on a 25-12 run in the next 7 minutes, capped by a Bruce Brown triple at 3:30 of Q2. The Wizards trailed 73-68 at halftime.
The Wizards’ defensive game plan continued to crumble in the second half. The Pacers took an 82-72 lead after an Obi Toppin dunk at 10:11 of the 3rd. Washington didn’t show much life after that. They trailed by double digits the rest of the way in the 23-point loss.
Kuzma led all scorers with 25 points on 50% shooting. Jordan Poole started his Wizards career with 18 points and 5 assists, but missed all six of his attempts from distance. Jones and Gallinari each added 16 points.
Bruce Brown led Indiana with 24 points, while Tyrese Haliburton had 20 points and 11 assists for the winning team. The Wiz has allowed 8 different Pacers to score in double figures.
Bilal Coulibaly also made his NBA debut on Wednesday. The 19-year-old made history as the youngest player in Wizards history to play in a home opener.
His youth certainly showed as he finished with just 3 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 turnovers in 23 minutes.
Coulibaly was understandably passive in his first game, leading to some careless turnovers and only 3 field goal attempts. But he managed 3 blocks in the evening, including an impressive save during the block against Haliburton.
It’s clear that the Wizards’ 2023 lottery pick still has a long way to go.