Playoffs D.C. Council Game 3: Wizards 63 vs Pacers 85: Defensive Monster Truck Over A Wizards Clunker
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. 3: Wizards vs Pacers; contributors: Kyle Weidie, Rashad Mobley, and Conor Dirks from the Verizon Center.
Washington Wizards 63 vs Indiana Pacers 85
“You can only play so much defense. They dictated what we wanted to run offensively, they took us out our comfort zone offensively.” —Drew Gooden
#1. Lowest scoring game in Wizards/Bullets franchise history.
#2. Third time in the NBA’s shot clock era that an NBA playoff team scored 63 points or less at home.
The Washington Wizards scored just 75 points in their first round, series-clinching win over the Chicago Bulls, but that certainly didn’t set off any alarms. The offensively-challenged Bulls only mustered 69 points that night, and the Wizards’ low-scoring output could be explained away and rationalized as a result of the difficulty that comes with closing out a team and a series. When the Wizards scored 102 points in Game 1 against the Pacers, it felt as if the offensive order had been restored. Even in the first half of Friday night’s game when the Wizards scored just 33 points, there was no need for panic, because the Pacers themselves only scored 34, and the game was well within reach.
But in the third quarter, the Pacers, led by Paul George and Roy Hibbert, scored 26 points, and the Wizards scored just 12—and this time John Wall could not be the only one taking the blame, although he had his share of turnovers and mistakes. Nene and Bradley Beal missed wide-open jumpers, as did Trevor Ariza. Marcin Gortat only took two shots on offense, but was consistently out of position on defense while guarding Hibbert—so much so that Randy Wittman barked at him throughout the quarter and benched him in the fourth. Once the Pacers’ lead ballooned to 16 points, Coach Wittman tried to sub in Trevor Booker, Martell Webster and Andre Miller to stop the bleeding, but that didn’t help, either. The Pacers stretched their lead to 20 points.
The pace of the game clearly favored Indiana in the first half, but the Wizards were able to keep it close. In that third quarter, the Pacers gained confidence on both ends of the floor and simply crushed the Wizards’ ability to score. When asked what Coach Frank Vogel said to the team, David West basically said the Pacers were in their sweet spot(s):
“We just came out out of the half just playing with pace that we’re comfortable with, and we didn’t have any silly turnovers where we let them fast break. We didn’t have any shooting turnovers, where the floor is unbalanced and we allow them to get out on the break. We were pretty confident on defense in the half court, and we were able to get quality shots.”
George Hill chimed in as well:
“Coming out of half, Vogel just told us to continue to fight, but he saw us gaining some confidence on offense and defense, too. It was a 34-33 game, and that’s our type of game in terms of mucking it up, which is not fun to watch, but that’s what we do, and he told us to just keep it up.”
At the beginning of the night, the feeling was the Wizards gave Game 2 away, and in Game 3 would resemble the well-oiled offensive machine of Game 1. Now they head to Game 4 with less confidence, a punchless offense and a 1-2 series deficit. Maybe another round of mea culpas is in order.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
A slew of of offensive rebounds will be your game MVP. After one quarter, Ariza had five offensive boards (his total on the night), the Wizards had seven, and the Pacers had just one. Most of it was Ariza just putting himself in the right position—maneuvering around Roy Hibbert, a friendly bounce, and dunk was the result of Ariza’s first offensive board.
The rest were a combination of more positioning and Lance Stephenson’s lack of interest in really keeping Ariza off the glass, at least in the early going. But Ariza’s five early boards led to eight second-chance points, which at least helped. On the night, Ariza shot a simple 4-for-8 from the field, scored 12 points, and grabbed 15 rebounds. And thus, the solo Wizard with a post-game podium appearance in front of the media. Trevor’s knowledge:
“We did not play our style of game. We did not play the way we wanted to. I think they controlled the game as far as I am concerned. As far as pace has to do with the game. We are a team that plays well when we are getting up and down the court, and making extra effort plays, and playing with a lot of energy, and I think in the second half we got away from that.”
“We turned the ball over a lot. We did not take care of the ball. We did not run our offense the way we are capable of doing it. It is just some things that we have to go over tomorrow in practice and work through. I do not think that it was anything that they did, I just feel like we did not do what we normally do.”
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
Trevor Ariza had the nerve, the gumption, the cojones, the patronizing, condescending self-possession to be decent in a game where the rest of his team was packed so close in the meat locker of losing basketball that their collective flesh must be striated with the thick welts of freezer burn.
Therefore, Ariza, who Kyle nominated as the Council Chair, is also vetoed. Without Ariza, the Wizards would have been an immaculate corpse, an unbroken image of incompetence, unreadiness, and most frustratingly, a majestic, unchanging, static, unpebbled mosquito breeding pool wherein each Wizard was a hand-holding hydrogen molecule full of a kumbaya serum which, considered from the arena and on film, looked like a very simple kind of shit.
Really: a case could be made that anyone—really, anyone other than Ariza—could be named the least valuable player in this game. Wall turned the ball over seven times. Bradley Beal missed most everything from everywhere. Nene laid back on the operating table while he should have been dissecting the Pacers defense on the way to a 3-for-14 shooting night. And Marcin Gortat, after struggling early, let passes slip through his fingers and opportunities dematerialize by not asserting himself against Roy Hibbert. The only thing working for the Wizards was the paint, but the team instead seemed dedicated to providing a dramatic interpretation of “Yosemite Sam Loses His Virginity,” firing off the jumpshot revolvers blindly into the air long after both clips were empty.
Nothing changes in Randy Wittman’s plan, and sometimes that’s alright. But inflexibility while being pounded by a blunt force object just means you break. It’s not a stretch to say that the Wizards played their worst game of the season. Almost everyone was to blame. Hopefully, dear reader, you had the opportunity to look away. The Wizards are still alive, though. Please go visit them at the hospital on Sunday.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
This award goes to the final buzzer.
Or maybe to Otto Porter, who I assume learned something, and maybe smiled at some point. I like it when Otto smiles.
—Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)
That Session Was … Too Much for the Basketball Gods to Ignore
With 5:43 left in the second quarter, despite being sucked into playing the Indiana Pacers style of basketball, the Wizards led 27-20 and appeared to be some pointed halftime adjustments away from righting the ship. They had six of their last nine points via layups, while holding the Pacers to just three points up to that point. As Pacers beat writer Candace Buckner observed, the Wizards were hitting all the shots, grabbing all the 50-50 balls, and snatching all the rebounds, but they were unable to pull away from the Pacers.
Sure enough, right on cue, the Pacers went on 14-6 run to lead at halftime, and the Wizards never led again. The basketball gods allowed Washington to stay close in defeat during Game 2, which seemingly gave the Wizards confidence that their loss was the exception, not the rule. On Friday, the gods sat and watched idly as the Wizards stayed close, despite once again failing to piece together sustained stretches of fast-break, open-court basketball in the first half of Game 3. But at halftime, it was as if the gods said “no soup for you” to the Wizards and gave the Pacers carte blanche. Indiana was a broken team in Game 1, a lucky team in Game 2, and a team with swagger and mojo in Game 3.
As Randy Wittman said on January 23 after a loss to the Boston Celtics, “You cannot screw with the basketball gods like that. It always comes back to get you.” In this case, the “get you” is a 2-1 series deficit to a confident Indiana team that would like nothing more than to head back home up 3-1.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
There’s a pattern to my note-taking in games like this one—a “clunker,” as Randy Wittman called it. The frequency dwindles off, just like the crowd attention, just like player confidence, just like the inevitability of the outcome. Eighteen lines in the first quarter, to nine lines, to four lines, to two lines in the fourth. There was plenty to be said on Twitter but not much to see. The Wizards were down a handful of points but it seemed like a lot more, or as Nene put it, a 10-12 point deficit felt like 35 points. Still, you kept thinking that Washington could make a run, at least up until David West hit back-to-back jumpers to keep the Wizards down 14 with about five minutes left in the game.
“It just kind of snow-balled, and we lost our confidence a little bit,” Wittman said afterward, almost accepting the fact that his team would have a so-called clunker after so many playoff games (eight).
Wittman preached nothing but pace in the 48 hours leading up to Game 3 and his team seemed confident that they would win a home second-round playoff game for the first time since 1979. But that’s exactly what they didn’t do.
“I didn’t think we had five guys running with [John Wall] the way we’re capable of doing from an offensive standpoint,” said the coach. But there was more to it than that. Frank Vogel’s game plan out-coached Wittman’s game plan.
And on if Wall himself can bounce back from bumbling away seven turnovers (to six assists, but zero secondary assists)?
“I have faith,” said Wittman. The Wizards play on Sunday, Randy better be praying to the basketball gods.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
1.5 out of 5 stars
40 mins | minus-18 | 15 pts | 6-13 FGs | 0-1 3Ps | 3-6 FTs | 6 asts | 1 blk | 7 TOs | 1 stl
John Wall can’t necessarily be blamed for the loss in Game 3, like he was in Game 2, but he did nothing to wash away the bad taste left in his (and the fans’) mouth from Game 2. There was a stunning block of a David West jumper, two lightning quick moves to end both the first and second quarters, and a concerted effort to wrestle the slow pace away from the Pacers and speed up the game. But whenever Wall had the ball, he vacillated between finding his own offense or getting his teammates involved, and he never seemed comfortable, either. He had a playoff-high seven turnovers, took just one shot in the fourth quarter, and at times the offense appeared more fluid with Beal running the point while Wall hung out in the corner. Not a good two-game stretch for the Game Changer. Perhaps he can find solace in what Paul George said about him:
“We understand that at some point, he’s going to have a good game. I remember last year, he had a 40-point game against us and that has always been on [our minds]. We know what he’s capable of. He can single-handedly beat us.”
2 out of 5 stars
40 mins | minus-18 | 16 pts | 6-19 FGs | 1-5 3Ps | 3-3 FTs | 3 rebs | 2 asts | 2 blks | 2 TOs
So I went back and watched all of Beal’s field goal attempts.
Ten came with Paul George as the primary defender and Beal made just two, but I would say only four of those shots attempts were toughly contested, and two of them (neither makes) had a defender in the area.
Three of Beal’s attempts came with Lance Stephenson as the primary defender, one was contested, and Beal made just one (the alley-oop dunk via John Wall in the third).
Four of his attempts came against Evan Turner. None of them were contested (one partially), but only a single shot was made, a 3-pointer when Turner went behind the screen.
Beal’s other two shot attempts, both makes, came in an iso against Luis Scola and against George Hill when Washington’s offense was able to maneuver a switch off Beal by Paul George.
SportVU player tracking data via NBA.com tells us that Beal was 3-for-6 on contested field goals—not bad—but 3-for-13 on uncontested field goals. Did Paul George really defend Beal that well? Or did guys just “miss shots” with a lack of confidence? Do give some credit to George, as his length took Beal out of his comfort zone. Otherwise, we will see how the kid responds on Sunday. If Beal is more selective with just a few attempts, and if the Wizards find a way to get George switching off him, them the Big Panda’s penchant for ice water veins could help turn this series around. —K. Weidie
3.5 out of 5 stars
36 mins | minus-24 | 12 pts | 4-8 FGs | 2-6 3Ps | 2-4 FTs | 15 rebs (5 off.) | 3 stls
If Lance Stephenson is going to be assigned to Trevor Ariza then Randy Wittman must find more ways to include him in the offense other than being dependent upon John Wall or someone else finding him with passes. Now, this isn’t to say the Wizards should not aim to move a bunch the ball like they can, but Stephenson is susceptible in lapses on defense when it comes to off-ball movement, and that needs to be taken advantage of. Otherwise, Ariza once again did a decent job defensively on Paul George, as we suspect that PG’s 9-for-10 effort from the free throw line was aided by some friendly whistles from the referees. —K. Weidie
1 out of 5 stars
34 mins | minus-14 | 8 pts | 3-14 FGs | 2-6 FTs | 3 rebs | 2 blks | 3 TOs
Nene deserves credit for limiting David West to just 12 points (technically he allowed six points, since four were scored on Al Harrington and two were scored on Gooden), and the accolades end there. For the second consecutive game, Nene was outplayed by Roy Hibbert—something that would have been downright crazy to think, let alone say heading into this series. And in a game where the Wizards desperately needed offense, Nene had nothing to offer. He missed jumpers, he missed bunnies like his last name was Gortat, and he missed four of six free throws. Said Nene after the game: “The best way to finish this night is just laughing and smiling . . . and come back strong with intensity the next game.” —R. Mobley
1 out of 5 stars
30 mins | minus-17 | 4 pts | 2-7 FGs | 0-0 FTs | 10 rebs | 0 asts | 2 TOs
Roy Hibbert and the Pacers are vulnerable on the pick-and-roll. Washington’s first play of the game, a side pick-and-roll between Wall and Gortat, seemed to acknowledge that. Gortat sprung open on the roll when David West followed the ball-carrier, and Wall made a perfect pass to Gortat. The lean, sometimes mean Pole went up, but was met mid-air by Roy Hibbert. The collision, which took place in the restricted area, was almost the definition of a personal foul, with the caveat being that it wasn’t called. Gortat stumbled across the floor and the Pacers recovered the ball. A few minutes later, Gortat got his second attempt on a long jumper with thirteen seconds left on the shot clock. He was, however, wide open, making this a “good shot” to some. The shot missed, but luckily, the Wizards only player that took his vitamins, Trevor Ariza, got the rebound and scored.
The third attempt was a hook over David West’s dome outside of the paint with just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter. It missed, but Ariza cleaned up again.
Gortat’s first make came on a slam a minute later, as Bradley Beal punctured the air-tight Pacers defense and found Gortat cutting to the hoop when the defense swung to protect Beal’s side of the rim. At this point, the Wizards led 12-10.
With under a minute left in the first half, Gortat posted up Luis Scola, spun to the basket, and missed a contested, but available layup. Early in the third, defended by Roy Hibbert, Gortat faded back and tried to shoot over the former Hoya, who didn’t even bother to get a hand all the way up on the shot (Hibbert was already turned around waiting for the rebound by the time Gortat released it). The shot was short.
Gortat’s final make, and final shot, came late in the third quarter, on an awkward, semi-fumbled pick-and-roll with Wall. Gortat recovered the ball, spun left, and hit a short hook over Ian Mahinmi.
Why did I just painfully recap each of Gortat’s mere seven shots? Well, one, because I’m emotionally devastated and need routine to stave off the vertigo of the playoff abyss. But also because Washington only ran two pick-and-rolls between Gortat and Wall. One should have been called a foul, and the other resulted in a basket. Credit the Pacers for working to deny the play, but shame on the Wizards for such blatant underutilization of a highly effective, and matchup-favorable, play against Indiana’s defense. It would have been nice. —C. Dirks
1.5 out of 5 stars
17 mins | plus-2 | 1 pt | 0-1 FGs | 1-2 FTs | 6 rebs | 1 stl | 3 PFs
Drew Gooden has taken Trevor Booker’s minutes. It’s not really surprising, given Randy Wittman’s preference for veterans. But it’s absolutely the wrong call. Against the Pacers, Gooden did all of nothing. The Wizards badly needed Booker’s energy—a mean block, a free-throw line dunk—these are components of the saline bag IV that the Wizards sorely needed to promote their own consciousness, but never received. Gooden was unobjectionable, sure, and the plus/minus numbers indicate that the team was deft enough at treading water with him in the game. But the playoffs are more sharks-and-minnows than a deep-end swim test. It’s not enough to be unobjectionable, and the Wizards needed Gooden to try something, to do something, anything with the minutes he was given. He didn’t. —C. Dirks
0 out of 5 stars
17 mins | even-0 | 0-3 FGs | 0-2 3Ps | 1 ast | 3 PFs
Martell Webster had as many fouls as field goal attempts and as many points plus rebounds as me. He wasn’t terrible on a couple defensive possessions, but he wasn’t that great on most. Certainly there’s still time left in the now, but, man, I hope that guy turns it around next season. —K. Weidie
0.5 out of 5 stars
9 mins | minus-9 | 2 pts | 1-2 FGs | 1 reb | 1 PF
The situation was ripe for an Al Harrington takeover. First, he walked slowly to the exercise bike to warm up his surgically-repaired knees. Then he slowly walked back to the bench and put on back and knee braces while removing his warm-ups. Glen Rice, Jr. and Sam Cassell patted him on the back and took turns whispering inspirational words in his ear. Finally, Al Harrington casually walked on the court at the 8:42 mark of the fourth quarter (when the score was 64-51) ready to save the day or at the very least provide a boost to the Wizards offensive offense. Harrington had a follow-up dunk to cut the Pacers’ lead to 12 points, 68-56, but that’s it. On offense he mostly stood around the 3-point line waiting for passes that were never delivered. And on defense, he lost David West on two occasions, which resulted in two wide-open jump shots. On a more personal note, he made me look foolish for tweeting this. —R. Mobley
0.5 out of 5 stars
6 mins | even-0 | 2 pts | 1-3 FGs | 0-0 FTs | 0 reb | 0 ast | 2 TOs
Simply awful. His two turnovers were deflating. One came after a big offensive rebound with the Wizards up 24-19 in the second quarter: Miller caught the ball in the post, and just as the announcing team said the word “cagey,” the 38-year-old prize of the Jan Vesely trade fired a shot through the heart of the Pacers defense, ostensibly trying to find a cutting Trevor Ariza. It would have taken a threaded needle; it was more marshmallow dodgeball, and led to two free throws for C.J. Watson on the fast break.
The second turnover came with the Wizards down 15 in the fourth quarter. Miller got caught in the air halfway to the basket after being met at the door by the Pacers defense. You could almost see the old man give up on the play as gravity brought his jump to an untimely end. The miscommunication resulted in what looked like a handoff to the Pacers, who were content to pull back and run off more of the clock. —C. Dirks
Video: Closing Nene.
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