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George says Pacers need to get tougher

Jeff Teague trails John Wall in transition. (Getty Images)


New Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks feels pretty good about things when his team's locked in a tight game and All-Star point guard John Wall has the ball in his hands.

"He's been a great playmaker for us throughout the games and in clutch situations. We've won a lot of close games," Brooks said. "He's really finding a balance of attacking, pulling up for a shot and kicking out to open shooters."

That's precisely what Wall did Friday night in a matchup between two of the NBA's top teams since New Year's Day, earning "MVP!" chants while producing 26 points and 14 assists to lead Washington past the visiting Indiana Pacers 112-107.

Entering Friday, Washington was No. 2 in the league at 15-5 since Jan. 1 - behind only Golden State - and Indiana was at No. 4 with a 13-5 record.

After Monta Ellis got Indiana to 103-102 on a floater in the lane with about 1 1/2 minutes remaining, Wall took over. He accounted for eight of Washington's last nine points this way: 17-foot pullup jumper, pass to Markieff Morris for a 3, then three free throws.

Wall's mindset after Ellis made things interesting?

"Just be aggressive, like Coach tells me," said Wall, who has at least 20 points and 10 assists in five consecutive games, matching a franchise record. "No matter how good or how bad you're playing, this is the main part of the game where you try to win."

Morris scored a season-high 26 points and had 10 rebounds, one game after sitting out a win at Brooklyn with an injured right calf.

Morris' explanation? "Fresh legs."

Pacers star Paul George's view from the other side?

"I thought John was the reason for a lot of the open looks (Morris) had," said George, who scored 31 points. "John is as good as it gets. He was hot tonight."

Bradley Beal added 20 points for the Wizards, who have won 18 of their past 19 home games. The exception? A loss in their last time out in Washington, 140-135 in overtime against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday.

TIP-INS

Pacers: F Kevin Seraphin, who used to play for the Wizards, scored a season-high 16 points. ... Indiana had won three road games in a row.

Wizards: Washington is 12-6 in games decided by five points or fewer. ... F Danuel House was assigned to the Delaware 87ers of the NBA Development League.

MAHINMI'S BACK

Wizards C Ian Mahinmi, who left Indiana as a free agent, played in his second consecutive game after earlier missing all but one this season with knee problems. He played 13 minutes, with zero points and three rebounds, but Brooks said that doesn't reveal Mahinmi's full contribution. "The subtleties of the game are the things he brings," Brooks said.

GETTING TOUGHER

George lamented that his team is "just not tough enough; got to get grittier." How can the Pacers do that? "You can't create a tough guy," he said. "It comes down to if you got it or you don't, if you want the ball or you don't."

FOUL MORE, COACH?

Brooks thought Washington didn't attack enough on defense in the first half, committing only four fouls until an intentional one in the closing seconds. "I'm not saying we need to play with our hands, but we need to be more aggressive," Brooks said. "No team should have only four fouls at halftime."

UP NEXT

Pacers: Host Milwaukee on Saturday in a back-to-back.

Wizards: Host Brooks' former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Russell Westbrook on Monday.

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