It was not a good time for the Washington Wizards to play their worst game all season. With their Eastern Conference Semifinal series tied 1-1 heading into Friday’s contest at home against the Indiana Pacers, the Wizards laid an egg. They lost 85-63 in front of their home crowd.
The final score was certainly indicative of how the game went down. The Wizards had no energy the entire game and were smothered by the top-notch Pacers’ defense. The 63 points were the fourth-lowest ever in a playoff game since the shot clock era (1954-55).
The Wizards just didn’t come ready to play and it was disappointing to see. The Wizards shot 33 percent from the field on the game and had no offensive rhythm whatsoever. John Wall finished with 15 points on 6-of-13 from the field, which isn’t bad, but he sets the tone for this Wizards team, especially on offense, and he didn’t play with any sense of urgency. He settled for jump shots instead of attacking the Pacers off the dribble and making people stop him and he had seven of the Wizards 18 turnovers. The Pacers scored 21 points off the Wizards turnovers.
It was bad enough that Wall was not totally into this one, but the Wizards got poor performance from Bradley Beal, Nene, and Marcin Gortat. Each one of those guys played their worst games of the postseason so far. That is a problem when you don’t have big time players coming off the bench who can fill certain voids when people are having off games. The trio combined to shoot 11-for-40 from the field. It is tough to grind out a victory when that happens.
On the flip side of things, you have to give a lot of credit to the Pacers for their performance Friday night. They were the No. 1 defense in the league for a reason during the regular season and they showed it tonight. They made the Wizards look extremely uncomfortable all night on offense and there offense was just good enough to run away with this one. Sometimes that is all it takes. At halftime it looked like anyone’s game (if anyone hadn’t switched the channel), but the pace and style of play favored the Pacers. With the score 34-33, it was an ugly, grind-it-out game and the Pacers kept it that way in the third, but also turned it up on the offensive end outscoring the Wizards 26-12 in the period.
The good thing for the Wizards? It was just one game. And they will have a chance to tie the series up at 2-2 Sunday. For me, it all starts with Wall being aggressive from the tip. When he is putting pressure on an opposing defense with his penetration and not settling for jumpers, the Wizards are a solid offensive team. When he is not, well, they end up scoring 63 points. They did hold Indiana to 85 points so the defense is there. The bad thing for the Wizards as the series progresses? It looks like Indiana is regaining some of their mojo from early on in the season when they were legit title contenders. It is certainly not back, but Roy Hibbert is averaging 21 points per game the last two contest and has intimidated the Wizards players from attacking the basket. He appears to still be good enough to be an important piece for the Pacers. We will see Sunday.