On Wednesday night, the Wizards were able to defeat the Pacers 104-90 despite shooting 39.8-percent from the field, mainly because they forced the Pacers into 17 turnovers while only committing eight of their own. On Friday, on Indiana’s end of the home-and-home matchup, the Wizards basically shot the same percentage (38.8-percent), and the Pacers again turned the ball over at a high rate (23 times to be exact). The difference, and the reason the Wizards lost 96-85, is that the Pacers shot much better (48.7-percent from the field) and the Wizards turned the ball a lot more (22 times).
John Wall led the Wizards with 25 points; 17 of them came in the third quarter when the Wizards unsuccessfully attempted to cut into Indiana’s lead. Unfortunately, Wall also led the team with seven turnovers. Andray Blatche and Nick Young, who were so instrumental in the Wizards’ victory over the Pacers in Washington, were non-factors, and they seemed totally out of sync. Blatche was scoreless in the first half, but did manage to finish with eight points (4-16 from the field), 12 rebounds and six turnovers. Young shot just 2-11 from the field and finished with eight points as well.
More observations from the game
- Darren Collison did not factor in the outcome of Wednesday’s game, but on Friday he had 18 points and six assists, and seemed to get into the lane at will. The combination of Wall still trying to get his wind back and Kirk Hinrich being out with a thigh bruise had to factor into Collison’s improved numbers. I can’t help but to think back to Flip Saunders comments after the Wizards took on the Rockets earlier this week:
“It’s not a coincidence that whoever we put Kirk on, that guys has trouble scoring. Martin gets 10 early, we switch Kirk on to him and he has problems getting shots off. All of our players have to learn to have that same readiness and intensity as he does.”
- Speaking of intensity and toughness, the Wizards were severely lacking in that department. You’d think they would have come into the game with chips on their collective shoulders after Josh McRoberts put John Wall on the floor Wednesday, but that was not the case. Roy Hibbert, Solomon Jones and McRoberts all laid hard fouls on the Wizards, and there was no real retalitation. JaVale McGee did foul Hibbert with force toward the end of the game, but Hibbert dunked on him later that quarter, so message nullified. I’m not saying the Wizards should morph into the 1989-90 Detroit Pistons, but a little toughness would not hurt. Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker would have been perfect for that, but the team’s tough future sat with DNP-CDs.
- The second quarter is where the Wizards lost the game. They scored 12 points to the Pacers’ 24, and only five of those points (a three-pointer from Young, and a short jumper from Rashard Lewis) came from the field. The offense lacked continuity, putting everyone into one-on-one mode, which only made things worse. They didn’t fare much better from a defensive standpoint either, as T.J. Ford and Danny Granger got into the lane as they pleased during the second. By the time the quarter ended, the Wizards went from being down three points to 15.
- John Wall had an amazing 17-point third quarter, and he alone kept the Wizards within relative striking distance. He scored from three-point range, he scored on mid-range jumpers. He made layups and he made free throws. None of his teammates had the hot hand during the game, so his assists (four in 39 minutes) were lower than usual. Still, if you’re a Wall fan, you’re encouraged by his progress. He’s going to need every bit of the “A” game on Saturday night when Chris Paul and the Hornets come to town — especially if Hinrich’s bruised thigh keeps him out.
- Al Thornton has fallen out of Flip Saunders’ rotation, and I’m exactly not sure why. He was a DNP-CD during the first Pacers game on Wednesday, and tonight he only saw playing time because Josh Howard went out with a sore left knee. Cartier Martin has been the beneficiary of Thornton’s demotion, although he did not play nearly as well on Friday (four points on 1-7 shooting) as he did on Wednesday (11 points on 4-6 shooting). When Thornton did finally get in the game, he scored 10 points and he did not miss a shot from the field (4-4) in 16 minutes. Perhaps this was enough to get him back in Saunders good graces.
- When Hinrich got hurt on Wednesday and Wall needed a rest, the Wizards had both Howard and Martin bring the ball up the court, but mostly Howard. Tonight, they shared dutes, as did Lester Hudson briefly, but the offense lacked fluidity without Wall on the court. It seems like Saunders does not have much faith in Hudson, despite the fact that he was brought back to the team after the Gilbert Arenas trade. It is worth mentioning again, Chris Paul is coming tomorrow night. If Hinrich is out, and Wall has to rest while Paul is on the floor, there will be blood.
- Just two days after saying his game was so bad he didn’t belong in the D-league, Hibbert rebounded with 17 points, eight rebounds and monster dunk over McGee. In comparison, Wizards centers Hilton Armstrong and McGee combined for seven points, six rebounds, six fouls and zero blocks in 35 minutes.
- Phil Chenier and Steve Buckhantz pointed out that the Conseco Fieldhouse was full of John Wall jerseys — both from Kentucky and the Wizards. Apparently Kentucky is not far from Indiana (as in, they border), and the Wildcats fans were in the house to show their support. Lucky for them, Wall delivered with a great performance. Still, if I’m Pacers GM Larry Bird, and I’m seeing a sea of jerseys without the “Pacers” on the front when the lowly Washington Wizards are in town, I’m feeling a bit squeamish.