Wizards aim to ride momentum into clash vs. Pacers

The Washington Wizards will play their home opener on Friday night when they welcome the Indiana Pacers to the nation’s capital.

Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma, acquired in the deal for Russell Westbrook over the summer, both made impressive debuts in Washington’s 98-83 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. Kuzma recorded a double-double of 11 points and a team-high 15 rebounds, while Harrell came off the bench for 22 points and nine boards.

Bradley Beal, who scored 23 points on Wednesday, told reporters after the win that he welcomed the balance.

“It definitely feels great to be able to have guys who put the ball on the floor, shoot the ball, I don’t have to make every single play,” Beal told the Washington Post. “I love the fact that I have guys who can really create and I don’t have to do a lot of that legwork.”

When Beal last saw Indiana in May, he erupted for 50 points as the Wizards recorded a 133-132 win in overtime.

Two-time All-Star center Domantas Sabonis collected 30 points and 13 rebounds in that contest for the Pacers, a stat line similar to his 2021-22 debut on Wednesday.

Sabonis finished with 33 points and 15 rebounds, but the Pacers squandered a 23-point lead en route to a 123-122 setback to Charlotte.

Indiana was without T.J. Warren, who remains sidelined due to a stress fracture in his foot. Caris LeVert is expected to be out until later this month with a back injury.

Malcolm Brogdon and rookie Chris Duarte, however, helped Sabonis shoulder the offensive load in the opener. Brogdon scored 28 points and dished 11 assists, while Duarte chipped in 27 points in his NBA debut.

Duarte was the Associated Press choice for Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year last season at Oregon. The first-year wing shot 6-of-9 from 3-point range on Wednesday.

“He did what we needed him to do: That’s be a threat to score, and solid on defense on a lot of possessions,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “For a first night for a rookie in the NBA, it was an outstanding effort.”

Wednesday marked Carlisle’s return to Indiana, with which he coached from 2003-07. Carlisle spent 2008 through last season with the Dallas Mavericks.

On the other bench, Friday marks the first home game as head coach for Wes Unseld Jr. He is the son of franchise legend Wes Unseld Sr., a Hall of Famer and Most Valuable Player of the organization’s only NBA Finals win in 1978.

For now, Wes Unseld Jr. is taking it one game at a time.

“It was a heck of a win for us,” Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said after Wednesday’s victory. “It was good for our guys. They were happy to get the W. I just liked the way we played. We started strong, we talked about having momentum. We knew from the start they were going to play with energy and be physical — and we weathered the storm.”

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