WASHINGTON — Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal did what they do – a near triple-double for one, 25 points in just 29 minutes for the other – and the Washington Wizards reached the NBA playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed by overwhelming the Indiana Pacers 142-115 in the play-in round Thursday night.
Washington led by as many as 38 points and advanced to face Joel Embiid and the No. 1 seed Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, marking quite a turnaround for Coach Scott Brooks’ crew, which was 17-32 in early April.
Indiana’s run of five consecutive playoff appearances ended in Coach Nate Bjorkgren’s debut season.
A little more than a week after breaking Oscar Robertson’s career record for most regular-season triple-doubles, Westbrook finished Thursday with 18 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists, and it was Beal – second in the NBA in scoring two years in a row – whose 3-pointer opened up a 30-point lead at 98-68 with about four minutes left in the third quarter.
The Wizards went 17-6 over the last six weeks of the season to finish with the eighth-best record in the East, but then lost the 7-vs.-8 game at the Boston Celtics 118-100 Tuesday. The Pacers won the 9-vs.-10 game at home against the Charlotte Hornets 144-117 that night.
HAWKS: Interim coach Nate McMillan was fined $25,000 by the NBA after saying the league is rooting for the success of the New York Knicks and implying his team may struggle to get calls in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Hawks face the Knicks in a best-of-seven series that begins Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
NBA AWARDS: Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Golden State’s Stephen Curry were revealed Thursday night as the three top votegetters for this year’s NBA MVP award, one that will be presented sometime during the playoffs.
Curry is a two-time winner, Jokic’s best previous finish was fourth in 2019, and Embiid’s best MVP showing was seventh in 2019.
Coach of the year — Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz; Tom Thibodeau, New York Knicks; Monty Williams, Phoenix Suns.
Defensive player of the year — Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz; Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors; Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers.
Most improved player — Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons; Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets; Julius Randle, New York Knicks.
Rookie of the year — LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets; Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves; Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings.
Sixth man of the year — Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz; Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz; Derrick Rose, New York Knicks.