Generally speaking, the first play of Game 2 went just as the Washington Wizards had hoped — the shot clock nearing zero and the ball in the hands of Roy Hibbert outside the paint. But after the Pacers center swished an 17-footer, the complexity of the game instantly changed. Hibbert went on to score 26 more points while the Wizards, who slowly walked the ball upcourt on the ensuing possession, played to Indiana’s preference of a slow, deliberate pace.
No matter if Hibbert scores 28 points or two on Friday as their Eastern Conference semifinals playoff matchup shifts to Verizon Center for Game 3, Wizards Coach Randy Wittman knows that if Washington wants to take control of series, his team must also take control of the game’s tempo.
“We have to do that. We’re successful when we’re playing a faster tempo,” Wittman said before Friday’s contest. “We got away from that a little bit in Game 2. Walking the ball up before you intitiate your offense, now you’re running up against the shot clock before anything is happening. That was probably, Game 2, our worst pace of all the games we played in the playoffs. So for us, we have to get back to playing a quicker, faster tempo.”
That starts with John Wall. The Wizards point guard is looking to shake off his worst performance of the playoffs after shooting 2-for-13 in Wednesday’s 86-82 loss. Wall spent an hour before Thursday’s practice working on his jump shot, and while he’s been content with serving as an offensive decoy of sorts during the playoffs, Game 3 could be the prime platform for him to seize control.
With Wall pushing the ball and the pace, the Wizards hope to reverse a trend that’s seen the Pacers outscore Washington, 30-15, in fastbreak points through two games. But for Wittman, controlling the game’s speed is bigger than just those numbers; it’s about creating a faster tempo whether the ball is in transition or in the backcourt.
“They do a very good job of getting back into transition but our pace and tempo for us just isn’t all about fastbreak points,” Wittman said. “It’s getting the ball up the floor quickly with 18, 19 , 20 seconds on the shot clock, so now you can get into attack and moving the ball, player movement and not up against the shot clock after one or two passes.”
(TV: ESPN; WNEW-99.1 FM, WFED-1500 AM)
Here’s some reading to get you ready for tonight’s game: