The Wizards did it again. With Monday’s 102-96 win in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with Indiana, the Wizards shrugged off both recent history, beating a Pacers team they had lost to twice on the road in the regular season by an average of 23.5 points, and ancient history, snapping a 12-game losing streak in Indiana and recording their first second-round playoff victory since 1982.
Oh and then there’s this…
The Wizards are 4-0 on the road in this year’s postseason. In the previous 20 seasons, the Wizards went 4-23 away from home in the playoffs
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 6, 2014
Just how did the Wizards take early control of this series? Here are the numbers that tell the tale of the tape:
Seconds that the Indiana Pacers led during Monday’s 48-minute contest. After jumping out an 8-0 lead, the Wizards essentially never looked back and had an answer for every Indiana run. Two Evan Turner free throws capped a 16-2 Indiana run that put the Pacers up 31-30 but Washington immediately responded, as Nene knocked down two jumpers to spark an 9-2 run and eventually build a 13-point halftime lead.
Offensive rebounds by the Wizards, compared to Indiana’s six. It’s these extra opportunities that helped Washington hold off several Pacers runs, total 19 second-chance points and overcome short scoring droughts, like the six-minute stretch that the Wizards went without a field goal to close the third quarter. Drew Gooden sparked Washington’s dominance on the offensive glass with seven — including two critical tip-ins — in just 18 minutes of play. Fortunately for the Wizards, Gooden’s 12-point, 13-rebound outing was enough to overshadow the three combined points from the rest of Washington’s reserves.
Rebounds and points by Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. This stat, along with Washington’s previous 12-game losing streak in Indiana, has been harped upon often. But really — how does a 7-foot-2 all-star center not grab a single rebound in a game?! Not only that, but this is Hibbert’s third scoreless game of the playoffs and fifth scoreless outing in his 12 games. Wizards center Marcin Gortat took advantage by grabbing a playoff-high 15 rebounds and scoring 12 points. With the Pacers shooting 28 percent with Hibbert on the floor and 46 percent when he was on the sideline, it may just be a matter of time before he’s benched.
Players in NBA history to have three playoff games with at least 25 points before his 21st birthday. The first was Magic Johnson; the other is Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who continues to make a name for himself in his first postseason appearance. His two three-point daggers during a 10-2 run reinvigorated a Wizards offense that had stalled and punctuated a 14-point fourth quarter for Beal en route to a game-high 25 points. He also added seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals.
Field goal percentage for the Wizards in the second half (13 for 38). Outside of Beal, Washington struggled to find the same offensive rhythm and fluidity that allowed it to jump out to an early lead. The Pacers played a part in this by slowing down the tempo, which in turn lulled the Wizards into settling for perimeter shots, built off the confidence from their sharpshooting during the first half. But with the Wizards’ strong rebounding performance and timely shots, their second-half shooting woes didn’t hurt them in the end, even with Indiana hitting several late threes to close the deficit.
Assists by the Wizards on 35 field goals. Washington is averaging 20.8 assists during the playoffs, so this isn’t out of the ordinary. But the number is notable because of the importance it will hold going forward in this series, when ball movement and a balanced effort are the only ways for Washington beat this Pacers team. Because of this, Washington found efficiency in its half-court sets behind John Wall‘s court vision and wasn’t doomed by Indiana’s 20-16 advantage in fast-break points (Granted, the Pacers scored 13 of these points in the final minutes of the fourth quarter on desperation threes).
4 for 17
Shooting performance by Indiana’s Paul George. Guarding him for most of the night was Trevor Ariza, he of 6-for-6 three-point shooting on Monday. The length of the Wizards swingman has given George problems all season long, holding the Pacers star to 8-for-26 shooting when they were matched up in the team’s three regular season meetings. Entering the series, it was no secret that Ariza’s defense on George would be critical to the outcome, and should he keep shooting like he did on Monday, Ariza will be double the trouble for the reeling Pacers.