John Wall was being kind when he referred to Friday’s Game 3 as “one of the nastiest games of the playoffs.” The Wizards’ 85-63 loss to the Indiana Pacers was in a class of its own this postseason in terms of repulsive offense.
The two teams combined for just 67 points at halftime (The halftime score of the Los Angeles Clippers-Oklahoma City Thunder game later that evening was 63-61). Indiana led by 15 points entering the third quarter despite shooting just 39 percent from the floor. Washington scored the fewest points in franchise history, regular season or playoffs.
In the shot clock era (since the 1954-55 season), only three teams scored fewer points in a postseason game than the Wizards – Utah against Chicago in the 1998 NBA Finals (54), New Jersey in the conference semifinals against Detroit in 2004 (56) and Cleveland against Detroit in 2006 (61). The Wizards became the third team since 1954 to score just 63 points in a home playoff game, joining Portland in the 1999 conference finals against San Antonio and New Orleans in the first round against Detroit in the first round in 2009.
But for Wall, the game was an eyesore for other reasons – he actually got poked in the eye and battled blurry vision for much of the second half. Wall said Pacers guard Lance Stephenson scratched his eyeball in the third period, when Wall committed three turnovers and shot 1 of 4 from the foul line.
With the Wizards trailing 52-40, Wall made a free throw, started blinking repeatedly and then hit the front of the rim on his second attempt.
“I barely could see after I got hit in the eye. I got a cut on my eye, so I had to put contacts in to try to get the medicine to cover up the cut,” Wall said. “Last game I couldn’t [see] everything was flashing. I was surprised I made half of them layups. I was shooting free throws with one eye contact.”
Coach Randy Wittman said he thinks Wall is “fine” and should be ready for Sunday’s Game 4. “Obviously, he had some irritation when you get poked in the eye. They put some solution in there, keeping it moist.”
Wall hasn’t removed the medicated contact lens with solution since Friday’s game and plans to continue wearing it in the hours leading up to Game 4.
“I don’t really know how it would be with just my normal eye,” Wall said after Sunday’s morning shootaround. “It feels weird. I got to keep putting drops in it, and solution. Try to keep it from swelling up. It’s different, but as long as it’s trying to help me out, I’m cool with it…No matter what [my eye] does, if it’s blurry or not, I’m still going to play. If nothing is broke in my body, I’m still going to come out and compete.”
Wall is averaging just 11.3 points on 30 percent shooting in three games against the Pacers but he had his best shooting game of the series in Game 3. He scored 15 points on 6 for 13 shooting. But Indiana made his night miserable by forcing him into seven turnovers.
“It wasn’t pressing,” Wall said. “I was just playing a game and getting into their situation and getting into the paint and they did a good job of knocking the ball from behind, and sometimes you get that call, sometimes you don’t. They did a great job of getting steals with it.”
Wittman doesn’t want Wall to slow down and has implored his players to start running more with the speedy point guard. “I’ve got to have him remain an attacker and that’s got to be his mindset. That’s who he is,” Wittman said of Wall.
Of the eight previous teams that failed to score at least 64 points in a playoff game in the shot clock era, the Atlanta Hawks are the only team to go on to win the series, beating Detroit in five games in 1999. But for the Wizards to become the second team, they will have to pick up the pace.
Washington is 2-0 against Indiana when it scores at least 90 and has been held below 83 points in three of its losses to the Pacers. “Every time we let them dictate the pace, they win those games. When we dictate the pace, we have the chance to win those games,” Wall said. “It ain’t just about pushing and trying to get fast breaks, it’s just putting pace in the game and getting a lot of possessions. That’s when we’re at our best. And when we get below a certain amount of possessions, that’s when they’re at their best.”