Playoffs D.C. Council Game 1: Wizards 102 at Pacers 96: Ariza and Beal Fire Their Engines, Exhaust Pacers
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. 1: Wizards at Pacers; contributors: Rashad Mobley, Sean Fagan, and Kyle Weidie from the land outside of Indiana.
Washington Wizards 102 at Indiana Pacers 96
Bradley Beal scored 14 points on just six shots in the fourth quarter. Kid was key. And leading the Wizards with 25 points (on 18 shots) on the night, you can also call him MVP. Twelve of those 14 fourth-quarter points came over four minutes between 10:20 and 6:20, keeping the Pacers at
bay and extending Washington’s lead from eight to 12 (the Wizards outscored Indiana 16-12 during the stretch). Some of the Big Panda’s clutch 3s really were Blue Magic. But this key legislature isn’t about Beal.
The Pacers, despite their struggles against Atlanta, were favored by Las Vegas to win the series (37%) almost just as much as the Bulls were favored (38%). To build on their own confidence, and to take advantage of the Indiana’s flailing (
fledgling) confidence, it was more important than usual that Washington punch first. And they did (as they have in every game this postseason).
Barely 60 seconds in the game had passed and the Wizards jumped out the gates 6-0, thanks to Trevor Ariza. His first 3 came on a second-chance after Ariza tracked down a loose ball rebound off a game-opening John Wall miss from the left elbow (he usually favors the right elbow). The Wizards found Nene in the high post and Paul George gave a soft double and got caught watching the ball while Ariza faded to the right corner.
Splash. The second came on a play we’ve often seen: Wall attracting attention with his size and speed in transition while Ariza trails directly behind him. So while the Pacers were trying to figure out what to do with Wall, he simply passed it behind him to Ariza at the arc above the break and essentially acted like a screener while Ariza burnt the nets like rubber.
Both teams then exchanged turnovers and missed shots and the Wizards didn’t get their 8-0 jump until Lance Stephenson tried to do too much against Bradley Beal, lost the ball, and the unselfish Wizards went the other way, ultimately finding Marcin Gortat for the layup. And perhaps just as key as that 8-0 run was the fact that the Wizards made eight straight free throws to end the game (two from Nene, two from Beal, and four from Wall), which was wholly necessary only because Washington had missed nine free throws on the night (22-31) and would have won the game going away had it not been for those struggles. But let’s stop splitting hairs.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
Trevor Ariza. It can be argued that Trevor Ariza had the toughest assignment of all his fellow teammates. First he had to slow down All-Star Paul George and prevent him from getting into any sort of an offensive groove which would ignite his teammates, the crowd, and the overall confidence level of the psychically fragile Pacers. Then on the offensive side of the ball, Ariza had to insure that George didn’t the have the energy to produce offensively by making him run through screens, and putting up substantial offensive numbers of his own. Ariza accomplished both in the Wizards’ Game 1 victory.
George did score 18 points, but nine of those points came from the free throw line, and he shot 4-of-17 from the field to get the other nine. More importantly, George only had seven points in the second half, when the Pacers seemed to be constantly fighting to get the Wizards’ lead down to single digits. Ariza did an effective job at crowding Paul George and making him take tough contested shots, or forcing him to relinquish the ball altogether. When Ariza had the ball in his hands, he consistently kept George off balance. When George would sag off Ariza to help George Hill and Lance Stephenson defend John Wall and Bradley Beal, Ariza would make him pay via the 3-point shot. Even when George made it his business to close out, he was still a step slow, and Ariza would rise up and get his shot off.
At one point when Ariza hit a 3-pointer to give the Wizards a 23-10 lead, George looked at Frank Vogel and raised his arms in exasperation as if to say, “What am I supposed to do with this guy?” It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Joakim Noah shaking his head in disbelief at Nene, but it was mighty close. Ariza’s job was to disrupt and be disruptive and he nailed it last night.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
We won’t pick on Trevor Booker too much after his stellar series against the Bulls.
It seems that Indiana is not an ideal matchup for him. (Plus, we very well could be vetoing Martell Webster, too.) In nine minutes, Booker did not attempt a shot, had one assist, two turnovers, and one foul. His one assist, however, was (Borat voice) very nice. Booker will bounce back, even if he still might be ill-equipped to handle David West or Luis Scola, because he’ll have to turn into the Cook Book Monster at least once or twice for the Wizards to win this series.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
Bradley Beal. One has to feel for Pacers fans if you contemplate what they have been through the past few months. Their juggernaut of a team fell apart in a matter of weeks, their center appears to
be spending his off hours with Medusa and their two young stars have gone from “elite’ (Paul George) and “linchpin (Lance Stephenson) to “above average” and head case, respectively. However, despite the embarrassment of Larry Bird threatening to turn the car around and go home if everyone didn’t start behaving, Pacers fans were still stunningly supportive of their dysfunctional family and their weird predilections. The crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse remained loud, heckled John Wall and rode Marcin Gortat mercilessly for suspected dirty play.
Until Bradley Beal happened.
In a case of reverse déjà vu, Bradley Beal put on a Reggie Miller performance in a minor key in the fourth quarter. With the Fieldhouse rocking as the Pacers kept clawing their way back into a game that should have been out of reach, Beal stepped into the void and nailed a series of floaters, Earl Boykins-0style dribble jumpers and cold blooded
3s that reduced the raucous Indiana fans to somber participants at a wake. Like watching a large dirigible slowly deflate, the Pacers and their fans were methodically taken out of the game as the realization slowly dawned on them that Beal probably wasn’t going to miss and that all the counter-punching in the world wasn’t going to save them from a completely chilled out panda content to slowly consume their carefully planted bamboo forest. Chris Webber even took a moment to awake from his Quaalude-induced Wizards coma to excitedly pronounce, “This kid is only 20 years old!”
—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)
That Session Was … An Impressive Display by a Fully Operational Offense
There is a scene in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi,” when the Emperor, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker are all relaxing in a room in the Death Star—the homebase of the evil Galactic Empire. Luke is under the impression that the Death Star is not yet complete, which means he and his Rebel friends should have been able to overthrow the Empire with relative ease. But the Emperor disavows Luke of that notion by showing him that the Death Star is indeed operational, and he proceeds to shoot down some Rebel ships in the process. Right before he shoots the ships down, the Emperor says, “Now witness the power of this fully armed and operational battle station.”
That is exactly what the Wizards did to the Indiana Pacers in the first quarter of last night’s game. Wall ran the ball up the court every time he had the opportunity, Nene and Gortat controlled the paint, Ariza was on fire, and Beal—despite struggling from the field in that first quarter—did the little things with a block, a steal and two rebounds. The Wizards ran the Pacers off the 3-point line, they contested every shot, and they led by 13 points by quarter’s end. The Pacers eventually closed the gap thanks to Andre Miller’s slower pace, but as soon as the starters began to trickle back into the game, the Wizards’ lead slowly worked its way back up to 10 points.
The Pacers may have thought that their victory against the Hawks meant they had shaken off the doldrums that have plagued them after the All-Star break, but the Wizards immediately showed them otherwise. The Pacers now know that the Wizards offense—maybe even more so than the offense of the Hawks—fully armed and operational.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
I’m no longer sure that just players can make “the leap” during the playoffs, because Randy Wittman either knows he is playing with house money and doesn’t give a hot damn about the opinion of others … or like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, he has transformed from some sort of benign leaf-chewing X’s and O’s guy into a beautiful butterfly that is capable of soaring above the action and seeing all possible outcomes as they play out before his many-orbed eyes.
I can think of no other scenarios that can explain Wittman’s willingness to suffer through the ineffectiveness of Drew Gooden in the third quarter on both the offensive and defensive end, only to leave Gooden in for the fourth quarter and watch as his aged backup forward turned into a relentless tip-in machine. Nor can you quantify the sheer guts it took for Wittman to start the fourth quarter with Andre Miller manning the helm to give his star point guard much-needed rest while turning over many of the playmaking duties to his 20-year-old starting shooting guard. If the last series against Tom Thibodeau and the Chicago Bulls was supposed to a Checkers vs. Chess matchup, this more closely resemble a highly uncompetive game of Battleship, with Wittman calling out the numbers and Vogel sullenly declaring that, yes, Randy, that was another hit.Taking a step back even further, Wittman may have lucked into the best possible coaching match ups possible for a neophyte who has been roundly criticized all season for not getting the most out of his charges. Neither Tom Thibodeau nor Frank Vogel are known for flexibility and this has allowed Wittman to thrive as he throws a variety of looks at his opposite number, gambling that their limited number of solutions to possible problems would spell success for the Wizards. You can game plan for Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal, but you don’t expect Drew Gooden to come out of his dotage to suddenly frolic around the paint in the fourth quarter. It’s unclear to which sort of dark gods Wittman is praying that allows him to peg the most useful contributor off the bench each game, but I wish he would tell me where the service is so that I may add my voice to his chorus.
—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)
4 out of 5 stars
39 min | plus -19 | 13 pts | 4-15 FGs | 5 rebs | 9 assts | 2 blks | 1 TO
To borrow Rashad’s metaphor from above, I believe that John Wall may be pulling a Jedi mind trick on us all. Dominant in the first quarter (including one mind-numbing block), Wall’s jumper gave out on him as the game progressed and he shot a paltry 4-for-14 from the field. You could start to grumble and complain, but then your eyes go further down the box score and you see the nine assists, just one turnover, two blocks and plus-19 (highest on the Wizards) stapled next to his name. Someone has to pack the Hookah full of tobacco and someone has to be willing to sacrifice his offensive game for the betterment of the team. No, Indiana, this is not the point guard you wanted, because if John Wall has learned to pick his spots this well, then he has truly entered the elite of NBA PGs. —S. Fagan
4.5 out of 5 stars
42 min | plus -5 | 25 pts |8-18 FGs | 3-5 3PT-3PTA | 5-6 FT | 7 rebs | 7 assts
Not since the hey day of Tim Legler (or possibly early Gilbert Arenas) have Wizards fans had the pleasure of watching a player with a stroke so smooth that
every fan automatically assumes upon release of the ball that it is going through the basket. The Ray Allen comparisons may be a bit of hyperbole, but they become less so with each drained 3, assist or collected rebound. Like his coach, Beal seems to have put the strange hesitations of the regular season completely behind him and has morphed into a much more dangerous player as the playoffs continue to unfold. Not simply a shooter (though in that aspect he will be giving Frank Vogel the shakes for the next few days), Beal has come to the party ready to be fully engaged in the process. The time has come to put away childish things and Beal has forcefully stuffed his Bao Bao plushie and his baby blanket into the far corner of his Phonebooth locker. —S. Fagan
4.5 out of 5 stars
37 minutes | plus-18 | 22 points | 7-10 FGs | 6-6 3Ps | 6 rebs | 2 asts
Bradley Beal kept the Wizards in the game in the second half, but the first half belonged to Ariza. He shot 6-for-8 from the field, including 5-for-5 from the 3-point line for 17 points and five rebounds. He ended up 6-for-6 from the 3-point line and set a Wizards/Bullets playoff record for most 3-pointers without a miss (Kevin Grevey previously held the record with four). The Wizards certainly could have used some of his sharpshooting in the second half when the offense stagnated a bit, but
his job was to assist the Wizards out of the gate, and he did. And as David Aldridge astutely pointed out, Ariza certainly helped his future earnings as well. —R. Mobley
2.5 out of 5 stars
32 minutes | plus-18 | 15 points | 6-16 FGs | 3-4 FTs | 6 rebs | 2 blks | 4 PFs
Foul trouble and strong play from Drew Gooden kept Nene quiet in the second half. But in the second quarter when Indiana seemed to be finding their rhythm offensively, and went on a 14-2 run, the Wizards went to Nene (and Bradley Beal) to settle them down. Nene scored nine points in the quarter and exploited Ian Mahinmi and Luis Scola while Roy Hibbert was on the bench. He did seem to settle for his jumper one too many times, which was frustrating considering no one on the Pacers front line could keep him from getting to the basket. Perhaps he’s saving for that move for a game when Ariza and Beal aren’t as on as they were last night.—R. Mobley
3 out of 5 stars
36 minutes | plus-5 | 12 points | 4-12 FGs | 4-6 FTs | 15 rebs | 2 asts | 3 blks | 5 TOs
During the TNT broadcast, Chris Webber kept saying that the struggling Roy Hibbert should focus less on scoring, and more on the other duties of a big man, which are rebounding, blocking shots and playing good defense. If Webber’s description was used as the big man barometer, Gortat played an A-plus game. He grabbed 15 rebounds (six offensive) he blocked three shots, and his help defense disrupted Indiana the entire game. Unfortunately, Gortat missed several bunnies, had five turnovers, and scored just one point in the fourth quarter. He didn’t play a bad game, but he certainly could have helped the Wizards win more handily had he been a bit more efficient on offense.—R. Mobley
3.5 out of 5 stars
18 mins | plus-2 | 13 pts | 5-11 FGs | 2-2 FGs | 13 rebs (7 off.) | 5 PFs
Why the hell is Drew Gooden playing so much? Many wondered this for a variety of reasons. Would Al Harrington have been a better option? Would Trevor Booker have been a better option? After hitting a single bucket in the second quarter, Gooden was 2-for-7 in 10 third-quarter minutes (as Nene was plagued with foul trouble), and seemed to be part of the leaks in Washington’s defense (Gooden was minus-7 in the third). But, damn, the Drizzle was rebounding, wasn’t he? He snagged seven of them in the third period, three on the offensive end. And in the fourth quarter, Gooden, his beard, his headband, and his affection for Bikram yoga planted themselves in Indiana’s painted area and he snagged six more rebounds, four offensive. So, yes, in four more seconds of playing time than Roy Hibbert, All-Star, Gooden snagged 13 boards to zero for David Falk’s client. Gooden’s recovery after a tough start also forced a certain Washington Post reporter to have a mea culpa.—K. Weidie
0.5 out of 5 stars
16 mins | minus-11 | 0 pts | 0-1 FGs | 0-0 3Ps | 1 reb | 1 PF
Glad the Wizards didn’t need the guy I actually pegged as the X-factor. Webster did absolutely nothing on Monday night, aside from getting bested on defense a couple times, but perhaps not as much as one would have expected given his struggles on defense this year. I still have faith that Webster can hit a couple big shots, which, of course, always happens when expectations are near bottoming-out. —K. Weidie
1 out of 5 stars
8 mins | minus-13 | 3 pts | 1-2 FGs | nothing else
I was asked (on a Pacers podcast) going into the series whether Andre Miller would be an X-factor for the Wizards. I said no, because he would simply be consistent and X-factors usually came out of nowhere and made their physical presence felt. Against Indiana, Miller appeared a tad out of sorts and just a bit old (give the 38-year-old a break!). But all of this is OK because Miller is a vet and he made his third 3-pointer as a member of the Wizards (3-for-4 total now), so we’ll ignore that the rest of his stat line was filled with zeros. —K. Weidie
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