What Happened: Washington’s poor shooting and Indiana’s solid defense helped the Pacers down the Wizards, 85-63, on Friday in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series. Washington’s 63 points sets a franchise-low for points in a game. The Pacers lead the series 2-1 heading into Sunday’s Game 4 at Verizon Center.
What Went Well for the Wizards: To be honest, not much. John Wall showed a few signs of life for Washington with several blazing drives to the rim in the third quarter, and Bradley Beal hit a couple shots to start the fourth period. The Wizards’ desperation also created more transition opportunities than they had in the first half. But the iron remained unkind. At 41 percent, Indiana didn’t shoot great, either, which allowed the Wizards to remain within striking distance until the fourth quarter.
What Went Wrong for the Wizards: Whether it was the Pacers defense or just an off shooting night, Washington couldn’t seem to hit much of anything. From the field, the Wizards shot just 32.9 percent on a franchise-low 24 field goals. From the free-throw line, they made just 52.4 of their attempts. Two of their three most consistent playoff performers, Nene and Bradley Beal, combined to shoot 9-for-33. Often the remedy for cold shooting is to keep shooting, but with the pace slowed to Indiana’s favor, the Wizards needed to move the ball and attack the paint in hopes of finding the best shot opportunity. Washington’s proficiency on the offensive boards also vanished — and so too did their opportunities for easy second-chance buckets mustering just two in the second half. Overall, the Wizards were out-rebounded 23-18 in the second half, which, again, extinguished chances to push the tempo. But then again, when the Wizards did try to play fast, it resulted in 17 turnovers, including seven by Wall. Trevor Ariza finished as the lone Wizard shoot at least 50 percent, but his teammates rarely looked his way to help snap out of their offensive funk.
What to Watch for in Game 4: Hate to sound like a broken record, but to win this series, the Wizards must find a way to increase the tempo and get away from Indiana’s deliberate brand of basketball. Even if the Wizards shoot better on Sunday, the key to finding easy looks at the basket is in transition and attacking the rim. Doing so will also increase the chance of getting Indiana’s bigs in foul troubles and, in turn, force the Pacers to stop playing inside-out. It won’t be hard to improve upon Friday’s effort but the Wizards must play exorbitantly better to avoid a 3-1 hole going back to Indiana on Tuesday.