Playoffs D.C. Council Game 5: Wizards 102 at Pacers 79: Polish Hammer Pulls The Nail from Wizards Coffin | Truth About It.net

Playoffs D.C. Council Game 5: Wizards 102 at Pacers 79: Polish Hammer Pulls The Nail from Wizards Coffin

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Updated: May 14, 2014

Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council: setting the scene, recapping key points, providing the analysis, evaluating players, and catching anything that you may have missed from the Washington Wizards. NBA Playoffs 2014, Round 2, Game No. 5: Wizards at Pacers; contributors: Rashad Mobley, Sean Fagan, and Kyle Weidie from anywhere but Indiana.

Washington Wizards 102 vs Indiana Pacers 79
[box score]


Jump to Council Player Ratings


 

 Prez Marcin.

20140513-marcin-gortat-post-game

NUMBERS.

{via ESPN Stats & Info}

#1. Twenty-one of John Wall’s 27 points in Game 5 came on jump shots, as he converted more jumpers than in the previous four games combined. In Games 1-4, Wall was 7-for-35 on jump shots (4-for-19 on uncontested jump shots), scoring 15 points (20% FGs). In Game 5, Wall was 9-for-17 on jump shots (4-for-6 on uncontested jump shots), scoring 21 points (52.9% FGs).

#2. Marcin Gortat tied his career-high with 31 points and scored as many field goals on post-ups in Game 5 as he did in the previous four games combined. In total on Tuesday, Gortat scored 10 points on post-ups (5-5 FGs, 4-4 vs. Roy Hibbert), six points on put-backs (3-4 FGs), seven points on cuts (3-3 FGs), and eight points in “other” ways (2-3 FGs). Overall, Gortat shot 7-for-8 when checked by Hibbert.

 

DC Council Key Legislature

Not even John Wall is sure what the narrative is anymore.

Pulled away by sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson following a 102-79 demolition of the Pacers, Wall was asked about the performance of the team and for his assessment of the series. Wall noted the blowouts in Games 1, 3 and 5; stated how close Games 2 and 4 were; then appeared to drift off for a moment as he couldn’t quite believe what had just happened on the court. To be fair to Wall, I’m not sure that anyone could grasp at that moment what had just taken place on the basketball court. The Wizards had not only staved off elimination but had run the Pacers off their own floor, out-rebounded them by a historic margin of 62-23, and had two previously dormant players (John Wall and Marcin Gortat) erupt like Vesuvius, reducing Frank Vogel to gulping for air on his bench like a beached goldfish.

So where is the narrative? The Wizards, being the nice young gentlemen that they are, have treated the Pacers like an elderly dowager for much of the series, helping the old girl cross the street and paying respect to her past accomplishments. They have helped Roy Hibbert regain some of his mojo, let the national media once again rediscover the brilliance of Paul George, and allowed David West his ‘alone time’ in which he needs to flex and scream “AND-1″ at any passerby who will stop to listen. In short, the Wizards have played down to the Pacers’ level (with the exception of Game 3) for much of this series, complacent to let the narrative of “Indiana resurgent” take the lead and have most scribes write the eulogies for a successful Wizards season.

However, the NBA resembles less a tea party with your elderly relatives and more an especially violent episode of “Game of Thrones.” Michael Jordan would have never helped an old lady across the street if it stood in the way of winning, instead he would have kicked her cane out from under her and sprinted across the street. Larry Bird would have spotted the weakness of the old woman and exploited it by any means possible in pursuit of a championship. The NBA playoffs are nasty, brutish and short—as the sick and the weak get weeded out in a hurry if they don’t adjust.

Facing elimination, the Wizards rediscovered the competitive instinct needed to win NBA playoff games and stopped treating the Pacers as an opponent deserving of respect. Instead, they went out and took what they wanted on the basketball court from a dysfunctional team that still has no game plan beyond “let’s hope Paul George gets hot.” Marcin Gortat had the game of his career, taking the ball away from the Pacers at will (he out-rebounded the ENTIRE Pacers team in the third quarter), and used Hibbert as a practice chair. Wall finally got good and pissed off at the Pacers shading off of him to guard Bradley Beal and unleashed a barrage of jumpers that buried Indiana underneath the avalanche of a 20-point lead. Everyone else on the team was good enough (or active enough) that there would be no comebacks from a demoralized and out of sorts Pacers squad.

In the middle of the fourth quarter with the Wizards up by 30, TNT analyst Chris Webber took a moment to actually put together a string of four coherent sentences and pronounced the Pacers as “soft.” He went on to state how the Pacers had no ‘dogs’ on their team and it was the type of performance playing out before him that had led many to wonder if the Pacers were a paper contender. It was eerily a callback to to the playoff preview that Grantland’s Bill Simmons had with Jalen Rose in which Rose professed his love for the Wizards because of the amount of dogs they had on the team. Teams prove their cohesion in the tensest of moments, and in Game 5 the Wizards unleashed their Dogs of War and exposed the Indiana Pacers. Let us hope they remain unmuzzled for Game 6.

—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)

 


 

DC Council Chair

The mind says that Marcin Gortat’s yeoman efforts in the scoring and rebounding departments (31 and 15) were more than enough to earn him the Council Chair of Game 5. He controlled the boards, he nullified Roy Hibbert and David West, and he did what he wanted on the offensive end of the floor. But the heart says John Wall is the Chair for the series of third-quarter daggers he skillfully put through the hearts of Pacers’ fans and players.

Prior to the third, the fine producers at TNT put up a graphic that showed how the Wizards had been outscored by a combined 42 points in the third quarters of the first four games. TNT did not provide a graphic illustrating the struggles of Wall over the first four games, but they did air a brief clip of an interview where Wall discussed the words of encouragement his teammates gave him in between Games 4 and 5, and how they reaffirmed that he was the leader of the team—’We’ll go as far as you take us,’ they said. Given his tepid performance thus far the series, Wall probably needed all available encouragement. He was averaging 11.5 points on 31 percent shooting from the field, plus 3.5 turnovers (12 combined in Games 3 and 4). Wall put aside all of that futility in the third quarter of Game 5.

It wasn’t just that Wall scored 17 points on eight shots in the period, it was the way he scored them that made such an impact. He sank three of his four 3-pointers and went a perfect 3-for-3 from mid-range. (Wall had only shot 26 percent from mid-range during the entire playoffs, drawing the ire of TAI’s John Converse Townsend, among others). But even more impressive than the percentage he shot was that he didn’t hesitate, and he didn’t vacillate between wanting to shoot or pass. He just shot the ball with a confident stroke, and then ran back down the court with a smirk that had just a hint of a mean streak to it.

The Wizards led by just seven points going into halftime, and after Wall’s outburst, they led by 24, essentially putting the contest out of reach. TNT’s Chris Webber said before the game that it didn’t matter whether Wall was the point guard in charge of getting others involved, because he was the franchise player, and players with that designation are expected to lead their team to victory. Wall seemed to get the message loud and clear in the third quarter, and he lifted his team to victory—because that’s what game-changers do.

—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)

 


 

DC Council Vetoed Participation

Me and Fishin’.

I mean, I believed that the Wizards could extend the series, but totally figured they’d get blown out (or at least lose by 12). Glad I was wrong in continued lessons of how quickly things can change.

Marcin Gortat was his usual candid self in various post-game sessions, telling TNT that he was essentially a decoy the last two games and that in Game 5, Nene was the decoy, and that it was the Polish Hammer’s turn. Gortat was a different machine against Roy Hibbert on Tuesday night—less mechanical, more sweet science.

Meanwhile, Nene wasn’t a bad decoy. Four points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks certainly isn’t veto-worthy. His first assist helped set the tone in the opening quarter. Nene stepped around a perimeter screen to hassle George Hill with ball pressure and then sneaked behind Hill for a steal, gather of the ball, and an overhead toss to John Wall for a transition finish. That play put the Wizards ahead 10-3 and let the Pacers know that every Wizard was going to fight.

If you really want to veto someone, perhaps ruthlessly do so against a continually struggling Martell Wesbter. Or we could throw pixel bones to Kevin Seraphin’s single miss in 150 seconds of action. Or veto me for being bearish on the Wizards’ chances to take Game 5 like a pill. Or veto a fishing trip for Washington. At least for now.

—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)

 


 

DC Council Top Aide

[Marcin Gortat Game 5 shot chart vs Pacers]

[Marcin Gortat Game 5 shot chart vs Pacers]

If there is one single narrative that does keep reappearing throughout both the regular and postseason, it is that Marcin Gortat “shows up to play” following a disappointing Wizards performance. Gortat earned a fair bit of scrutiny for that statement in December, following a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, in which he declared his readiness and appeared to question the heart and desire of his teammates. As the season (and postseason) lurched along, it became obvious that Gortat was not having a referendum on the team but rather using criticism to fire himself up and leave no questions as to his effort and ability. Following two straight dismal performances in Games 3 and 4, we should have all expected and angry Polish Hammer to make his presence felt, but certainly not to the degree he did so in Game 5.

[via @conorddirks]

[via @conorddirks]

Gortat immediately announced his presence on Tuesday evening by converting his first four shots, two off of easy jumpers and another two off of sweeping drives to the basket. John Wall found Gortat early and often, and Gortat continued to go NBA Jam on the Pacers for the remainder of the night. Jumping hooks over Roy Hibbert. Dream shakes on Ian Mahinmi. It became so ridiculous that at one point Chris Webber started spluttering about Gortat “disrespecting” the Pacers and then settled into a long segue about how Gortat should respect his father and his accomplishments.

 

Yes, Gortat was so dominant that the only criticism that could be leveled at him was in how he communicates with his parents.

marcin-gortat-father-boxer

The true disrespect, however, was in the rebounding department. Gortat collected 16 boards and was responsible for resetting at least five Wizards offensive possessions. With the Pacers unwilling (or unable) to match Gortat’s energy, Gortat kept snaking into the lane and asserting his will on Hibbert (two rebounds) and Mahinmi (zero rebounds), knocking them over like so many yellow bowling pins on his way to gobble up another board. What made it remarkable was that due to the design of Washington’s scheme, Gortat was often the only man with offensive rebounding positioning in a sea of yellow jerseys.

While the Wizards cannot expect another 31 and 16 explosion from the Polish Hammer in Game 6, it is also obvious that Gortat is simply too valuable to leave stapled to the bench for long periods of the fourth quarter. Nene may be the straw that stirs the Wizards’ drink, but Gortat is the bitters that makes the drink taste all the better. Hopefully he called his dad following the game, if only to avoid the wrath of Chris Webber.

—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)

 


 

DC Council Session

That Session Was … A Narrative Killer

In the waning seconds of last night’s blowout victory, TAI editor Kyle Weidie posed a simple question to the writers on his staff: “So does anyone know what’s happening?” Conor Dirks, associate editor at TAI, responded:  “Good gracious that was a narrative killer,” and he is exactly right.

Prior to last night, the Wizards had dropped three consecutive games in demoralizing fashion. They lost games 2 and 4 in the last two minutes, and then they flat out got their doors blown off in Game 3. It appeared as if the Wizards young backcourt of Wall and Beal did not know how to win in crunch time, Gortat was missing in action and, most importantly, the Pacers seemed to recapture the swagger that had been sorely missed since the All-Star Break.

The narrative would read that the Wizards—much like the Chris Webber-led team of 1997—was up and coming, but like all great teams, they had to take their lumps from better teams before they sniffed success. Even Grantland’s Zach Lowe had written a piece which seemed to be an attempt to assure Wizards’ fans that despite the disappointment attached to (eventually) losing to the Pacers, there were reasons to be encouraged by the future.

But thanks to Gortat’s scoring and rebounding, Wall’s third quarter, and Indiana’s choke job, the narrative was changed. The Wizards are no longer inexperienced, and looking forward to next season, but they are a confident bunch heading home hoping to force a Game 7 where (allegedly) anything can happen. And Indiana is no longer a team ready to challenge the Miami Heat with a superstar rounding into form in Paul George and a center with newfound confidence in Roy Hibbert. Instead the Pacers managed to regress to their old lackadaisical habits, and they appear to be a rudderless ship once again. TNT’s Kenny Smith commented that, in his lifetime, he had never seen a team win a championship playing that type of basketball, and Charles Barkley said he had never seen a team lose by 30 in a closeout game at home.

Changed narrative alone isn’t going to win this series for the Wizards, but it damn sure gives them a greater chance as they head back home. The same could not be said headed into Game 5.

—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)


 

DC Council Mayor

Nothing ever changes?

In Game 4 Randy Wittman found some success with a small ball lineup. And actually, he only used nine different five-man units in the 95-92 loss on Washington’s home court—a rare, low number for the coach (the Wizards averaged 13 different five-man units per game in the series versus the Bulls and 12 per game over Game 1 to 3 versus the Pacers). In that Game 4, Nene and Gortat only spent time on the court together with the starting lineup (18 minutes and minus-5 in plus/minus). After the starters, Andre Miller, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Al Harrington, and Drew Gooden played the most Game 4 minutes as a unit (15) and finished plus-19.

That lineup hadn’t been used all playoffs up to that point, but it did get 151 minutes of experience over 17 games as a unit during the regular season and finished plus-32.

This all highlights the fact that Wittman can’t be as rigid as one might presume with the playoffs so predicated on matchups from game-to-game. Gortat had a bad Game 4 (or rather, was a “decoy,” in his words) on Sunday, but Washington’s blowout loss in Game 3 also could have contributed to using a 4-5 combo of Harrington and Gooden to take Indiana’s defense more out of its comfort zone. And it’s hard to argue that it didn’t work.

No, something always changes. And on Tuesday night, Marcin Gortat decided to be a boxer against Roy Hibbert instead of a flailing, out-sized MMA fighter. Lucky Wittman.

The coach also once again reserved pairing Gortat and Nene strictly to the starting lineup in Game 5 (18 minutes, plus-13). Meanwhile, the Miller, Beal, Webster, Harrington, Gooden lineup was minus-7 in two minutes. Go figure.

Gortat and Nene playing just 18 minutes together is closer to their season average (18.5 minutes per game over 53 games). They had been averaging 23.1 minutes over seven playoff games together prior to Game 4. Which, could also be an adjustment—cutting court-time of Nene and Gortat by five minutes has provided just enough a window of spread-open court and alternate angles to make a difference in Washington’s offense, seemingly.

Throughout the playoffs, the duo of Gortat and Gooden has averaged 7.6 minutes and plus-4.4 per game. Gortat and Nene are at 22.1 minutes and minus-0.9. Maybe that former duo can continue to make the Pacers uncomfortable in spells. It will be interesting to see what changes for Game 6. After starting the playoffs with six straight double-digit point performances (100 points on 47-for-92 FGs, 51.1%), Nene has scored just 22 points on 10-for-34 shooting (29.4%) over the last three games. Perhaps Randy’s next trick is getting the Brazilian to dance.

—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)


 

DC Council Players

John Wall

5 out of 5 stars

34 mins | plus-30 | 27 pts | 11-20 FGs | 3-6 3Ps | 2-2 FTs | 5 rebs | 5 asts | 5 TOs

Game 5 was always going to a referendum on John Wall rather than the play of the Wizards as a whole. Max-contract players get maximum criticism and the murmuring had already begun in earnest about how Wall had a difficult series against the Pacers and how Bradley Beal was the ascendent star on the Wizards due to his steady performances and ability to hit the big shots. Wall started the first quarter by feeding into the criticisms of the haters, turning the ball over against George Hill, forcing bad passes and gambling on the defensive end in pursuit of steals.

Then Wall went and broke the damn narrative.

[John Wall Game 5 3rd quarter shot chart]

[John Wall Game 5 third quarter shot chart]

Perhaps sick of the Pacers paying little attention of his offensive game or the continued pestering of George Hill, Wall forgot the past and proceeded to unleash a barrage of jumpers in the third quarter that took the life out of the Pacers and sent the Bankers Life Fieldhouse crowd toward the exits. There were 3-pointers taken that silenced the critics from Game 4. There were jumpers drilled in the face of Hill. There was also nary a turnover as Wall seemed to take all the pointed criticism and set fire to it in front of a silent Indiana crowd. Now that the real John Wall has finally made his appearance, it behooves him to stick around and show both the Pacers and the NBA intelligentsia that he is worth every penny that the Wizards are putting in his pockets. —S. Fagan

Bradley Beal

3.5 out of 5 stars

40 mins | plus-23 | 18 pts | 7-17 FGs | 2-5 3Ps | 2-3 FTs | 8 rebs | 4 asts | 2 TOs

Gortat and Wall did the heavy lifting offensively in Game 5, which meant Beal could afford to play relaxed and let the game come to him. He did score 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting, including this emphatic jam. But more importantly, Beal contributed to the Wizards’ domination on the boards with eight rebounds (three offensive), and played the role of occasional facilitator with four assists. On defense, he rendered Lance Stephenson relatively useless by limiting him to just nine points on eight shots in 27 minutes. R. Mobley

Trevor Ariza

4 out of 5 stars

31 mins | minus-31 | 10 pts | 4-9 FGs | 0-2 3Ps | 2-2 FTs | 10 rebs (4 off.) | 5 asts | 2 stls

Unnoticed goes Trevor Ariza’s bounce-back defensive performance. After George’s stellar 39-point performance on 20 shots in Game 4 (8-10 FTs), Ariza held George to just five makes on 15 attempts and 2-for-3 from the free throw line. In his 39-point effort, George was 3-for-8 on contested field goals and 9-for-12 on uncontested field goals. With 15 points on Tuesday, George was 1-for-5 on contested shots and 4-for-10 on uncontested shots.

Also: Ariza didn’t even hit a 3-pointer. The Wizards were 6-6 in the regular season when this happened and are now 2-0 in the playoffs when The Hookah ain’t hitting from deep. And thus, Ariza’s stat line provides additional proof of all the things he continues to do when he’s not exploding on offense. Foremost: a 6.2 rebound per game average during the regular season has been boosted to 9.1 per game in the playoffs. —K. Weidie

Nene

2.5 out of 5 stars

24 mins | plus-13 | 4 pts | 2-6 FGs | 4 rebs | 4 asts | 2 stls | 2 blks | 4 PFs

We’ve already dedicated a handful of pixels to Nene’s quiet night. He took a backseat. He became a passer first. And, hey, he didn’t miss any free throws! (Didn’t take any, either.) Nene will be a force in Game 6 and will be especially key in keeping David West quiet. He was just the lion-horse-eagle spirit animal that the Wizards needed on Tuesday. —K. Weidie

Marcin Gortat

5 out of 5 stars

36 mins | plus-35 | 31 pts | 13-15 FGs | 5-7 FTs | 16 rebs (7 off.) | 2 asts | 1 blk | 3 TOs

After the game, Marcin Gortat told the TNT crew that he was on a mission in Game 5, because 1) he felt like he was a decoy in Games 3 and 4 without providing much help to Nene, and 2) he wanted to outplay Roy Hibbert. He didn’t mention sitting out the majority of the fourth quarter in Games 3 and 4, but he certainly played Game 5 like he wanted to leave no doubt that his presence would be needed throughout the night.

Gortat kept possessions alive with his offensive rebounds, and he closed them out with his rebounds on the defensive end. At one point, Gortat was running up the court with his head turned the opposite direction, and the ball STILL found its way into his hands. When he was in the post, Roy Hibbert, Ian Mahimni and David West all attempted to stop or slow Gortat, but they either committed fouls or failed in their attempts to keep him from scoring. R. Mobley

Drew Gooden

3 out of 5 stars

17 min | plus-13 | 0 pts | 0-4 FGs | 9 rebs (3 off.) | 1 stl | 1 funny altercation with Indiana crowd

There is a certain horror in knowing that Drew Gooden is going to be a key determinate in the outcome of this series. With Trevor Booker banished once again to the bench, the play of Gooden, or rather how much Gooden plays within himself, will go a long way in determining the Wizards success on Thursday night. If Gooden stays in his lane like he did on Tuesday (hustling for boards, agitating opposing Pacers, using a veteran’s dirty tricks) then the Wizards still have a good shot at taking this series. After all, everyone loves a well-timed hip check. It is the reappearance of the mid-range shooting Drew Gooden who gives me cold sweats as that incarnation comes at the expense of getting Wizards starters into an offensive rhytmn. More barking, Drew, and less biting. —S. Fagan

Martell Webster

1 out of 5 stars

19 mins | plus-3 | 2 pts | 0-4 FGs | 2-2 FTs | 4 rebs | 1 blk

The Wizards bench was almost as ineffective in Game 5 (12 points) as the Pacers’ bench was in Game 4 (2 points), and Martell Webster was a part of that struggling second unit once again. He went 0-for-4 from the field (he missed two wide open 3-pointers off of feeds from John Wall), and three of his four rebounds were in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. Every other player in Wittman’s eight-man rotation has caught fire, so maybe Martell is waiting for Game 6 to take his turn. —R. Mobley

Al Harrington

2.5 out of 5 stars

13 mins | minus-5 | 1-for-2 FGs | 0-for-1 3Ps | 2-3 FTs | 2 rebs | 1 stl | 6 PFs

All hail Uncle Al! Although his actual court-spreading effectiveness can be questioned (he’s 0-for-5 on 3-pointers in the playoffs), his presence cannot. Merely being a threat to shoot can be effective, but also, Harrington gets propers for using all six of his fouls in 13 minutes, and for once hassling the shit out of Evan Turner, grabbing the turnover, and scoring on the other end as Turner tried to ride him like a pedicab. —K. Weidie

Andre Miller

2 out of 5 stars

11 mins | minus -1 | 2 pts | 1-1 FGs | 2 rebs | 0 asts | 1 TO

Just enough Professor Miller to give John Wall the rest he needed, Miller ran the point efficiently and even broke out his post-up game for giggles. However, not needing Miller was perhaps the best tonic for the Wizards and John Wall. The Professor may need to teach another class before this series closes out, but one can hope that Wall has finally earned his graduate degree. —S. Fagan

 


 

End Vines.