Eastern Conference Semifinals: Wizards at Pacers: Game 1 Open Thread


If we want to win, we’ve got to run. (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

INDIANAPOLIS – Wizards Coach Randy Wittman usually looks forward to return trips to Indianapolis since it gives him the chance to meet up with his parents, family and other close friends. But with the Wizards in the second round for the first time since 2005 and Wittman leading a playoff team for the first time in his career, the homecoming has taken on a much different feel.

“It’s a business trip. That’s kind of how we’re doing it. It’s no different for me, than being in Chicago right now. focusing in on making sure these guys are ready and making sure they’re prepared,” Wittman said before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Indiana Pacers. “It’s a good kick for my family, obviously. I’m not going to get an opportunity to see them very much, with every other day, in the playoffs, getting our team ready,  but I’m happy for them.”

Wittman and the Wizards have had little success at Bankers Life Fieldhouse over the past few years, losing 12 straight, dating back to April 11, 2007. In two games in Indianapolis this season, the Wizards never scored more than 73 points and were outscored by a combined 47 points. But the Wizards believe that they discovered a strategy to defeat the Pacers when the teams met at Verizon Center in March – by pushing the tempo.

The Wizards were limited to a combined five fast break points in their road losses to Indiana but had 18 fast break points in their 91-78 victory. John Wall said the responsibility of establishing a quicker pace is on him.

“We was walking the ball up the court,” Wall said. “You look at the game we played at home, we played with a lot of pace, we played defense, we put pressure on them and we got in the open court. Make those guys run a lot.”

Indiana has the best home record in the NBA this season at 35-6, but the Pacers have gone 4-4 in their past four games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.  The Atlanta Hawks won two games in Indiana in their first round series against the Pacers.

The Wizards won all three road games against Chicago. Wittman said his players aren’t intimidated about playing in Indiana after finishing tied in the regular season with the most road wins in the Eastern Conference with 22. “It’s always important to establish yourself on the road and we’ve done a good job of that this year, throughout the year of playing on the road, winning on the road and having the confidence to do what it takes to win on the road. I thought our guys in the Chicago series didn’t flinch in that and have great confidence what it takes to win on the road.”

When asked what it took to win on the road, Wittman said, “Belief. I think you’ve got to believe you can go into any arena and win. Talent gives you an opportunity, belief and doing it get you over the top. I think that’s the main thing from a mental standpoint. You have to be able to withstand different things than at home.”

(TV: TNT: WNEW-99.1 FM, WFED-1500 AM)

Here’s some reading to get you ready for the game:

Tragedy motivated Trevor Ariza

Wizards find the second round and the spotlight

Pacers are suddenly confident

Wizards-Pacers: By the numbers

Wizards eager to take on Pacers

Wizards vs Pacers: Position-by-position matchups

Three keys to Wizards-Pacers series

Ted Leonsis doesn’t expect a problem with Game 6 and Lady Gaga

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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