What Happened: In a defensive battle, the Indiana Pacers hold a 34-33 lead on the Washington Wizards at halftime of Friday’s Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
What Went Well for the Wizards: Washington continued its dominance on the boards, thanks in large part to Trevor Ariza. Often lauded for his sharpshooting and defense, the Wizards swingman, who ranks as the team’s second-best rebounder, grabbed five offensive boards to help Washington counter Indiana’s size and physicality in the paint. Ariza wasn’t shabby from in the points department, either, hitting his four of his first five attempts and standing as the lone Wizard to shoot at least 50 percent. His timely shots, along with Washington’s rebounding (27 boards to Indiana’s 19), helped the Wizards overcome their early cold shooting and stay close with Indiana. Defensively, Roy Hibbert was held to a more normal output of eight points and three rebounds in the first half. Paul George had just 11 points on 3-for-8 shooting.
What Went Wrong for the Wizards: Neither team shot well from the field, which explains the 67 combined first-half points. The Wizards (31.7 percent shooting) missed six straight shots in the final three minutes of the first quarter until John Wall drained a fadeaway before the buzzer. Overall, Washington went 4-for-6 in the paint and 3-for-17 outside the paint. Bradley Beal, the Wizards leading playoff scorer, didn’t score his first bucket until nearly 15 minutes into the game. Nene also couldn’t get going from the outside, missing seven of his nine attempts. Washington had hoped to elevate the tempo in Game 3, but Indiana’s preferred deliberate pace held sway in first half. As the Wizards were lulled out of their usual approach, the Pacers went on an 8-0 run late in the second quarter to open the door for their narrow halftime advantage.
What to Watch for in the Second Half: At some point, you figure George is going to start forcing the issue and find his offensive rhythm. The second half could be that time as both teams look to take this pivotal contest. Should both teams’ shooting woes continue, it’ll be interesting to see if the Wizards resort to finding easier buckets in the post, which fits the game’s current slow pace, or in wrestle control transition off of turnovers or rebounds.