DC Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Pacers, Game 30
Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 30th game of the season against the Pacers in Indiana are TAI’s Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) and guest Jared Wade (@Jared_Wade), who writes about the Pacers for the ESPN TrueHoop blog 8 Points 9 Seconds.
Wizards Starters (4-25):
Garrett Temple, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene, Emeka Okafor
Pacers Starters (18-13):
DJ Augustin, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert
Q #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Pacers over the past week?)
@Jared_Wade: Heading into Saturday night, the Pacers, which sport the No. 1 defense in the NBA, had been playing their best basketball of the season. They won seven of their last eight and were enjoying a nice rest period created by a weather cancellation. Coming off the emotional high of a valiant, thrilling comeback win in New Orleans, they went five straight days without a game. Then, in a back-to-back, they beat Phoenix and lost to Atlanta while playing pretty poorly. It was a down moment that felt really deflating since the winning ways had all come against mediocre-to-bad teams and this was their first real test in some time.
On New Year’s Eve, however, the Pacers regained some momentum with yet another comeback win, this time over the imposing Grizzlies. Both in the timing and in the way the team persevered to gut out a tough victory (without starting point guard George Hill), this was probably the best win of the season for Indiana. And now, the best defense in the league gets to go up against the worst offense in the NBA.
Q #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
@Jared_Wade: If anyone is still sleeping on Paul George, they must be Rip Van Winkle. The 22-year-old put up 18.5 ppg, 7.5 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.7 SPG and 1.0 BPG in December while shooting 45.8% from the field and 38.8% from behind the arc. These numbers would be even better if you toss out George’s 0-point game against the Warriors on December 1. His always-excellent defense hasn’t let up an inch, as he has taken over as the team’s primary creator. He is simply one of the best two-way perimeter players in the NBA this season. If it weren’t for he and the Pacers’ early-season struggles, we would probably be contemplating George as a 2013 All-Star.
Q #3: What game-within-the-game counts most?
(What matchup between two players or between each team in a particular statistical category is most important.)
@Jared_Wade: David West is the heart and soul of the Pacers, and he has been playing even better than Paul George in many regards. If this game is close, he will be the one tasked to win it late for Indiana. The Wizards are going to have to find someone who can guard him. I’m not sure Chris Singleton, nor Kevin Seraphin, is that guy. No doubt West will be a load throughout, but job No. 1—if Washington can stay in this game—will be ensuring that they don’t let the Pacers’ best clutch player beat them by himself.
Q #4: How it’s going down?
(TAI’s general key to the game.)
@Truth_About_It: The Wizards are certainly a better team than the one which went a measly 5-for-7 from the free throw line against the Pacers in Indy during their fifth game of the season. They are also likely better than when they lost to the Pacers for the second time, pushing their record to a franchise-worst (at the time) 0-9 start—a game in which the aforementioned Mr. West son’d the Wizards to the tune of 30 points. Yep, the Wizards are better now than they were then … but are they any good? All signs point to “nope,” as team brass blindly rests their hope and laurels on the return of injured, mediocre players, as well as the non-shooting point guard whom they are building around.
But, worth nothing that Nene didn’t play in either of those games. The Brazilian difference-maker still leads the Wizards with a plus/minus per 48 minutes of plus-3.2 (one of just three Wizards in the positive—Garrett Temple is a plus-2.3 per 48 and Cartier Martin is plus-1.0 per 48). However, over the last five games, where the Wizards have beaten the Magic but lost to the Pistons, Cavaliers, Bulls and Mavericks, Jordan Crawford has increased his difference-making with a plus/minus of plus-2.3 per 48 (Nene is plus-3.6 in the last five). If Crawford can bounce back from an ailing ankle and if Nene once again survives the second night of a back-to-back, then the Wizards could make things more uncomfortable than expected for the Pacers. But likely not.
The Pacers are favored by 10.5 points over the Wizards. The over/under is 181 points (via USA Today).
@Jared_Wade: I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I would bet a bunch of money on the Pacers at home, where they are 10-3 so far this season. They have had a lot of rest lately and, after back-to-back, hard-fought games against top-level competition, I could see this getting out of hand early. 96-78, Pacers.
@Truth_About_It: A million-billion-trillion dollars on the Pacers to win and cover. No, not really. But you do wonder if there’s someone in Vegas selling themselves on taking a chance on the Wizards to cover … and whomever that person may be, they are likely a sick, sick individual. Indiana wins, 98-84.
[stats via NBA.com/stats]