November 20, 2014

Washington Wizards Game 7 Review: Wizards defeat Pacers for second time in four days

The Washington Wizards defeated the Indiana Pacers, 97-90, on Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Wizards beat the Pacers for the second time in four days after winning in overtime in Washington on Wednesday night.

Behind Nene’s 15 first quarter points, the Wizards jumped out to a 32-14 lead at the intermission. The Pacers never led in this game. The biggest lead the Wizards had was 56-35 coming right after halftime on Nene’s last basket of the game.

Behind Solomon Hill’s 28 points. the Pacers chipped away at the lead in the third quarter. They closed to within 3 at 81-78 with 8:17 left in the fourth quarter. The Pacers ended the game missing 8 out of their last 10 shots, allowing the Wizards to pull away again.

John Wall led the Wizards with 18 points. Nene filled the stat sheet with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, one steal and one block. Kevin Seraphin scored 13 points off the bench in relief of Marcin Gortat, who had gotten into early foul trouble.

Washington Wizards Game 5 Review: Wall helps Wiz defeat Pacers in Overtime

John Wall went on a 6-0 run in overtime to give the Washington Wizards the lead for good as they beat the Indiana Pacers, 96-94, Wednesday night at the Verizon Center in Washington. Roy Hibbert’s two free throws had given the Pacers their first lead since the first quarter with 3:24 left in overtime at 88-87. Hibbert missed a three-pointer to win the game, while Chris Copeland missed a follow-up jumper from seven feet out that would have forced a second overtime.

The Wizards took a five-point lead into halftime at 46-41 after ending the first quarter tied at 24. Wall gave the Wizards their largest lead at 61-49 with 4:37 left in the third quarter. The Pacers chipped away at the lead until Chris Copeland’s three-pointer tied the game up at 77 with 4:07 left in regulation.

The Wizards were able to extend out to a four-point lead after Copeland’s basket, but Donald Sloan tied the game at 84 with 6 seconds left. Paul Pierce missed a three-pointer at the end of regulation.

Sloan led the Pacers with a career-high 31 points. Copeland added 19 points off the bench.

Wall led the Wizards with a double-double, scoring 31 points along with 10 assists. The Wizards had four starters score in double figures, with Marcin Gortat, Garrett Temple and Paul Pierce also contributing. The Wizards made 21 of 23 free throws.

Washington Wizards Game 6 Recap: Wizards’ Playoff Run Ends in 93-80 Loss to Pacers

All the fire and energy that powered the Washington Wizards through Game 5 seemed lost Thursday night as the Wiz Kids fell 93-80 to the Indiana Pacers in an elimination game at home to end their playoff run.

Marcin Gortat came nowhere close to his career high playoff points this time around, but he did lead the Wizards’ scoring efforts with 19 points. Bradley Beal and Nene added 16 and 15, respectively, and John Wall rounded out the double-digits club with a mere 12 points as Washington’s 39.2 percent field goal percentage proved too low to pose a threat.

Indiana jumped to an early – yet surmountable – lead early in the first quarter, but Lance Stephenson and David West helped the Pacers to a 29-23 lead in the first 12 minutes of play.

The Pacers continued to tack onto their lead in the second quarter, largely with the help of nine free baskets off poorly timed Washington fouls.

The Wizards regained just a bit of momentum in the third quarter as the Gortat-Beal duo breathed life back into the offense. The two combined for the Wizards’ first eight points of the quarter in under three minutes before Nene added a free throw and Wall sank a two.

But, West continued to pester Washington with back-to-back baskets before George Hill’s three gave Indiana a 67-55 lead with 4:26 remaining in the third. Washington trimmed the deficit to 10 on free throws before Trevor Ariza and Drew Gooden added a pair of baskets to help the Wizards climb back within eight points.

For a brief moment in time, Washington actually regained the lead in the fourth by way of two Gortat free throws, a pair of baskets by Wall, and two long jumpers – including a lead-changing three-pointer – from Beal.

With the next shot, however, West regained the lead for the Pacers. From there, Indiana continued to outrun the Wizards – so much so that Washington endured a stretch of more than five minutes without a basket in the fourth. West and Stephenson took advantage of the slow-to-awaken offense to help the Pacers to their 93-80 win.

“We’re definitely disappointed,” Beal said after the game. “This loss hurts more than anything just knowing that it all just came to an end just like that. But at the same time, nobody really thought we would be this far. For us to actually make it here and for us to believe in ourselves and make Indiana earn it, we should be proud of ourselves and there’s nothing we should hang our head about.”

“Nobody expected us to be here,” Wall said. “I just want to thank God for giving me this opportunity to be here and compete as a team. Like [Beal] said, I think we got a lot of effort from a lot of teams. I think a lot of teams respect us now. We definitely made Indiana earn it. Give them a lot of credit for coming out and just giving us a lot of experience to know what it takes to win and compete, and close out games and get to the next level. We just want to say thanks to everybody that supported us, and our family, friends, the organization and definitely our fans.”

The loss makes further evident the Wizards’ playoff struggles at home. The end of their run caps off a 1-4 record at the Verizon Center – compared with a 5-1 record on the road this postseason.

“We have to look on the flip side of it and the things that we did on the road is a huge step for this team,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. “There is no question you have to take care of home and that is the next step. I mean we win 44 games and we win more games on the road than we do at home. You even take a little bit of care at home and you are at 50 you are at 52 and that is the next step we got to take. Continue to be what we were on the road this year. Take care of home and continue to grow.”

Wizards vs Pacers Game 6 Preview: Will The First Quarter Decide The Winner?

By the end of the first quarter on Thursday night, it’s very possible that we’ll know who’s going to win Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Washington Wizards and the Indiana Pacers. While there will still be three quarters, 36 minutes, of basketball left to play, the first quarter will ultimately decide who wins.

Seriously. Follow me on this one. [Read more…]

Wizards vs Pacers Game 5 Analysis: John Wall Quiets Critics In Blowout Win

On a night when his team needed him most, Washington Wizards’ All-Star point guard John Wall broke out of his recent slump to lead his team to a 102-79 win on the road against the Indiana Pacers.

It’s a game that many of us had been waiting for since the Wizards knocked off the Chicago Bulls in round one. After a 24-point performance in the decisive Game 5 of that series, Wall put together his best effort yet of round two as Washington staved off elimination. [Read more…]

Washington Wizards Game 5 Recap: Gortat, Wizards Crush Pacers to Send Series to Game 6

After enduring three demoralizing losses to the Indiana Pacers, the Washington Wizards came back with a vengeance Tuesday night to take Game 5 by the score of 102-79.

Marcin Gortat led the charge with a spellbinding 31 points and 16 rebounds to mark arguably the greatest game of his career. His 31 points tied his career high, while his 16 boards earned Gortat a new playoff career high. And, as if in response to recent criticisms regarding his subpar playoff performance as of late, John Wall added a commanding 27 points to Washington’s efforts.

That’s right – combined, Gortat and Wall accounted for more than two-thirds Indiana’s point total on the night.

Washington enjoyed a hot start as the duo combined for six points before fans saw three minutes of basketball. [Read more…]

Wizards vs Pacers Game 5 Preview: It’s Time For John Wall To Be An All-Star

On Tuesday night in Indianapolis, the Washington Wizards will be fighting for their playoff lives as they’ll take on the Indiana Pacers down 3-1 in the series. The NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals series between these two has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride.

While the dynamic of this series has changed many times, one thing has stayed the same and that is the (lack of) productivity by Wizards’ All-Star point guard John Wall. As myself and fellow DSP writer Dave Nichols have touched on recently, Wall has pulled a Roy Hibbert in this series and disappeared.

After averaging a team-high 19.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists in the regular season, Wall was able to carry that momentum into the Wizards’ opening-round series with the Chicago Bulls. In five games, the fourth-year guard averaged nearly 19 points, seven assists and four rebounds per game. In the decisive Game 5, it was Wall’s 24-point effort that propelled them to victory.

In their second-round series with Indiana, Wall seems to have, well, hit a wall. His shooting percentage has dropped to 31-percent and he’s averaging just 11.5 points and barely three rebounds. To his credit, he has managed to up his assists to 7.5 per game, but that’s a small consolation as it hasn’t amounted to much success in the grand scheme.

At the free throw line, Wall has seen his percentage go down (from 76-percent against Chicago to 72-percent against Indiana), but has also seen his attempts decrease. In round one, he averaged nine free throw attempts per game. Through four games against the Pacers, Wall has seen the charity stripe an average of just 4.5 times per game.

While you can easily accredit that stat to poor officiating, it’s important to remember that the officiating wasn’t exactly spectacular in round one, either. Rather, I think that stat has more to do with what Wall is doing with the ball when he drives. Instead of rising to finish at the rim, he’s looking to pass the ball out. He’s playing unselfish basketball, but it’s backfiring.

It would be one thing if Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza were knocking down the open jumpers that he’s setting them up for, but they’re not. Collectively, the sharpshooting duo are averaging just 47-percent from the floor and provide an average of five threes per game. Those are solid numbers, don’t get me wrong, but it’s been inconsistent shooting from them overall.

As a shooter, Wall has never really been that guy. He only averaged 43-percent shooting from the floor in the regular season and was usually good for just one made-three a game. All along, his game has been to quickly put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. His shooting struggles in the postseason, particularly in round two, are nothing new.

Wall’s biggest attribute is his speed. No matter who else is on the floor, he’s the fastest. When the ball is in his hands, he’s like lightning in a bottle. In round one, Wall used his speed to his advantage to get to the rim. The Bulls’ defenders had two choices: let him score or foul him. It was his mindset to constantly attack the rim that led the Wizards to victory in the series.

Against Indiana, he’s stopped using that speed. Rather than putting his head down and flying through the paint looking for nothing but the rim, he’s looking around at who he can pass to. Even when he creates an open look at a layup, he’s looking to dish the ball back outside. He’s losing his identity and it’s costing the Wizards this series.

For Washington to have a chance in Game 5, Wall needs to be that lightning-in-a-bottle player he’s capable of being. He needs to go at Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi and get them into foul trouble. What good is a 7-foot big man if he’s sitting on the bench? Both Hibbert and Mahinmi have taken control of the paint and it will be Wall, not Nene or Marcin Gortat, that can take back that control.

It’s almost as if Wall is okay with being the number three, or four, guy in the lineup. He’s had no issues allowing Ariza and Beal to do the work and Nene has certainly been in the forefront of the game plan. However, neither of the three brought the Wizards to this point. Rather, it’s been thanks largely to the effort of Wall that they made the playoffs in the first place.

Of the Wizards’ starting five, Wall has been here the longest by nearly two seasons (Nene was acquired in the middle of the 2011-2012 season). If there’s one player that deserves all the glory and credit, it’s him. There’s no reason why he should be looking to pass the ball. He is the man on this team and it’s time he play like it. The others are there to support him and he’s trying too hard to get them involved.

Before the start of Game 5 on Tuesday night, Wall needs to find himself again. A first-time All-Star this past year, he needs to find that player agin. Rather than focusing on not making mistakes, he needs to relax and just play his game.

Time and time again, the old saying of “speed kills” has been proven true. At 7 PM on Tuesday night in Indianapolis, John Wall will need to use his speed in order to keep the series alive and force Game 6.

Wizards vs Pacers Game 4 Analysis: Wiz Lose On A Night They Should Have Won

About five minutes into the fourth quarter, I had all but finalized a heartwarming piece highlighting the sensational play of the Washington Wizards’ bench. At the end of the game, I promptly deleted it and repeatedly smashed my face into my keyboard.

When I put my broken keyboard, and heart, back together, the struggle then became finding the right words to describe the slow-death that took place on the floor before us inside the Verizon Center on Sunday night. After staring off into space for several long minutes, that’s when it hit me.

The reason the words were so difficult to come up with is because the Wizards weren’t supposed to lose Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Indiana Pacers. They weren’t supposed to go down 3-1. Washington was supposed to tie the series up at 2-2 and head back to Indiana with new life.

Instead, they had what was rightfully theirs stolen right out from under their noses.

The setting was right. The Phone Booth was rocking (Ringing? Buzzing?). The hometown crowd in D.C. was as alive as ever for what could have been the final home game of the season. The Wizards fed off that energy, in the first half, and carried a 55-38 lead into the half.

The Senior Center, The Oldies But Goodies, The AARP Unit (saw that one on Twitter), whatever you want to call them, the bench for the Wizards, primarily Drew Gooden, Andre Miller and Al Harrington, didn’t play like they were 32, 38 and 34 years old respectively. Off the bench, they fueled Washington’s fight with 28 points between the three of them.

Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza both shot 2-for-4 from behind the arc and the Wizards collectively shot 45.6-percent from the floor. At the free throw line, they went 15-for-19. The shooting struggles that they went through in Games 2 and 3 seemingly disappeared. Shots were falling and the Wizards seemed poised to take back some control in a series that was certainly held captive by the Pacers.

But alas, the sleeping giant that is the Eastern Conference’s number one seed woke up. After being embarrassed to end the first half, the Pacers then stuck it to the Wizards in the second half. In front of the red, white and blue faithful, Indiana sent a powerful message to the District, and the NBA.

They outscored the Wizards 57-37 in the second half, highlighted by a 33-17 third quarter. Indiana had an answer for everything Washington threw at them. That answer took the form of small forward Paul George.

In a game-high 46 minutes, George poured in 39 points on 12-20 shooting, including seven three-pointers. At the free throw line, he made 8 of his 10 attempts and managed to grab 12 rebounds, as well. Not to be overlooked, Roy Hibbert added 17 points and George Hill provided 15 points of his own.

Ultimately, the Wizards were their own worst enemies and the Pacers took advantage of their mistakes. Washington had victory well within its grasp, but Indiana snatched it away thanks to a slow third quarter and a clutch performance from one of their stars.

Following a night as emotional as Sunday, it’s almost cruel to be reminded that there is still one more game (at least) left to be played. The 95-92 loss at home in Game 4 was so devastating, so debilitating, that any hope that remained for this season was quickly drawn away like a popped balloon. You could feel in the arena; you could see it on social media.

On Tuesday night, however, that’s exactly what Washington is faced with. For the first time since 2008, the Wizards will take the floor with their postseason on the line. With a win, they get to play another day. Should they lose, they’ll board the plane back to Washington for one final time.

Tipoff for Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals is Tuesday night at 7 PM EST in Indianapolis.

Wizards vs Pacers Game 4 Preview: Wiz in Must-Win Situation

On Friday night in Washington D.C, there was a definitive shift in momentum in the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals series between the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards. As Washington begins to slow, the top-seeded Pacers are picking up steam and that is trouble for the Wizards.

Led by Bradley Beal, Washington got off to a hot start in the postseason. They took care of the Chicago Bulls in five games in round one before opening up round two with a statement win over Indiana. Lately, however, they seem to have cooled off while the Pacers have heated up.

Unlike Washington, Indiana started the postseason slow after a sloppy month and a half to end the regular season. They squeaked by the Atlanta Hawks in seven games before getting trounced by Washington to open the second round. Now, however, it seems like they’ve corrected the ship.

The Wizards convincingly won Game 1, but the Pacers have comeback to take complete control of this series. The Pacers stole Game 2 in Indy from the Wiz Kids, and then embarrassed the Wizards on their own floor on Friday night. Their defense was suffocating and their offense was clicking.

While Indiana is finding themselves again, Washington appears to be losing it’s sense of identity. As the Pacers have turned up the heat defensively, the Wizards have struggled to setup and run an offense. Things only seem to be sliding downhill, especially in an area where the Wizards have to excel in for success.

One place the Wizards have dramatically fallen off is from behind the three-point line. After making 10-of-16 in Game 1, they have made just 9-of-37 three-pointers in the past two games. Trevor Ariza and Beal have had a difficult time getting open shots and, because of that, haven’t been able to get into a rhythm.

Washington is beginning to show it’s youth for the first time all postseason. In the final minutes of Game 2 last Wednesday, the Wizards put up multiple threes that simply didn’t need to be taken. In Game 3, they appeared to be overwhelmed by Indiana and were unable to match their intensity.

With the Pacers on the upswing and the Wizards looking like a team running out of gas, Washington is now faced with a must-win Game 4 on Sunday night. Coming back from being down 3-1 is hard against any team, but if Indiana continues their recent upward trend, it will make the task exponentially more difficult for Washington.

Tipoff for a crucial Game 4 on Sunday is set of 8 PM EST inside the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

Wizards vs Pacers Game 3 Analysis: Time To Be Worried About Washington?

On Wednesday night in Game 2, the Washington Wizards handed the Indiana Pacers the victory with sloppy play down the stretch. Following the uninspiring blowout loss in Game 3 on Friday night, should the hometown crowd be worried about the Wizards?

Washington was simply beaten by the Pacers at home in the Verizon Center. On Wednesday, we talked about how Washington gave Indiana the win. On Friday night, the number one seed in the Eastern Conference showed everyone why they were that seed entering the postseason.

In virtually every facet of the game, Washington was out-played by Indiana. On the scoreboard, they lost by 22 points. In the box score, Indiana doubled them in assists (20), had three more steals (9) and committed far fewer turnovers (the Wizards committed 17 to Indiana’s 9).

Rebounding, Indiana slowly took control of the paint as the game went on. After the Wizards held the advantage on the boards 16-13 at the end of the first quarter, Indiana then out-rebounded Washington 26-22 in the second half. No coincidence, Indiana out-scored the Wizards 51-30 in the third and fourth quarter.

Shooting-wise, Washington’s Game 2 struggles continued. They managed just 32.9-percent from the floor and were just 4-16 from behind the arc. At the free throw line, they made just 11-of-21 attempts. Indiana continued to shoot well from the charity stripe making 16-of-21 attempts.

The stat that sticks out the most from that bunch is Washington’s inability to hit from downtown. In the regular season and round one of the playoffs, Washington was a sharp-shooting team that lived, and died, by the three. After making 10 three-pointers in their Game 1 win, Washington has shot just 24.3-percent (9-for-37) from deep in Games 2 and 3. To reiterate: they have lived, and died, by the three.

This is now the second game in a row where the Wizards have struggled, which is certainly a reason to make one nervous about the future of the series. In Game 2, they struggled, but still had a chance at the end to win it. In Game 3, Indiana saw their opponents struggle and stepped on the gas. They didn’t allow the Wizards, or the fans, to get back in the game. Indiana kept up the pressure and refused to let up.

Washington was simply out-worked by the Pacers. Indiana’s defense was suffocating and disrupted anything the Wizards tried to establish. You can try all you want to setup and run an offense, but when your opponent is as feisty as Indiana, it’s hard to get something going. Rarely did Washington get an open look at a shot. They set screens, but Indiana always had an answer.

The beauty of it all is that there is a (day-after) tomorrow. Washington finds themselves down just one game and will get to try again on Sunday night in front of the hometown crowd. They’ve lost two in a row, but it would be a huge mistake to count this team out. Washington has proven numerous times this season that they are not a team to be taken lightly.

Indiana is now in control of the series at 2-1, but there’s no reason to think the Wizards can’t comeback. Tipoff for a crucial Game 4 is Sunday night at 8 PM EST.

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