What Happened: The Washington Wizards lose for the first time on the road in the playoffs as Roy Hibbert scored 28 points to lead the Indiana Pacers to an 86-82 win on Wednesday. The series is now tied 1-1 heading back to Washington for Friday’s Game 3.
What Went Well for the Wizards: Marcin Gortat capitalized on the game’s slower pace as the Wizards worked the high pick-and-roll, resulting in a team-high 21 points. On the other end of the floor, Trevor Ariza made up for a quiet offensive night by closely shadowing Paul George off picks and almost completely taking him out of Indiana’s offense. George finished with just 11 points on 5-for-13 shooting. Bradley Beal did well sharing the ball-handling duties with John Wall, aptly running the pick and roll and finding space for pull-up jumpers. Though the tempo never favored the Wizards, they kept the game close with rebounding (43, including 11 offensive), timely shots and scrappy play.
What Went Wrong for the Wizards: The Pacers took control in the third quarter by slowing down the pace and turning the game into a defensive grind. The slower tempo took Washington out of its offense and gave Indiana enough chances to ultimately get Lance Stephenson (all 12 of his points in second half) going and keep Roy Hibbert (28 points, nine rebounds) rolling. The open three-point looks that often come in transition for the Wizards were swept away by Indiana’s defense and the game’s pace. As a result, Ariza was a non-factor on offense and Washington went just 5-for-21 from long range, with a number of these coming late in the game when a hard drive to the basket would have sufficed. The Wizards also left a handful of points at the foul line by going 5-for-12 at the charity stripe in a game decided by four points. John Wall not only had an off shooting night (six points on 2-for-13) but he was often left standing along the perimeter while George Hill denied him the ball and impacting the game with his passing off the dribble.
What to Watch for in Game 3: For the first time in his young career, John Wall will have to answer for several questionable shots and moves late in a playoff game. Game 3 is only a day away, so the microscope won’t be on him long. But how he adjusts to Indiana’s defensive strategy of keeping him off the ball and hesitant to shoot will determine the course of this series in Friday’s pivotal matchup. It’s no secret that these teams prefer to play at two totally different paces. The Wizards will have to figure out how to better determine which shots are best as they rotate through their halfcourt offense, especially during the closing minutes when the temptation is to panic or play hero ball.