Opening Statements: Wizards at Pacers, Playoff Game 5–Pixels & Emails from the Abyss | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Pacers, Playoff Game 5–Pixels & Emails from the Abyss

Updated: May 13, 2014

Washington Wizards at Indiana Pacers - Nov. 10, 2012


Bad news: Only 3.7 percent of NBA teams that have gone down 3-1 have come back to win a best-of-seven playoff series. The good news: TAI’s Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) and John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend) exchanged Gmail pixels to preview Game 5.

Start it.

Teams: Wizards at Pacers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Television: TNT
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Spread: Pacers favored by 5 points; Over/Under: 181.5

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May 12, 10:28 p.m.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend):

I was in Bethesda again last night, watching the game with my dad. He gave me the last beer in the house, which I nursed like Florence Nightingale, so that was great. Really enjoyed his commentary, too: “That was horrible. … Make-up call coming up. … Paul George is making that.” And so on.

As for the action? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Both of us had a feeling the Wizards were going to blow the lead, and the game, early in the third quarter.

Where’d you watch Game 4?


May 12, 10:42 p.m.

Dan Diamond (@ddiamond):

I was at the office, returning late from Mother’s Day in Baltimore, powering through work on a laptop, and watching in our common room. It was a lonely way to watch a loss.

​What was the moment when you knew the game was going to turn? When Paul George started raining 3s? When the Wizards went nearly six minutes without a single bucket?


May 12, 6:58 p.m.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend):

The moment?

Well, there was an unmistakable feeling of dread that crept up during the series of events which I will describe. The scene: Late in the third quarter. The Wizards were up, 70-58.

Nene missed a right-handed finger roll against David West, and Roy Hibbert grabbed the defensive board. On the following Pacers offensive possession, Paul George darted behind a David West screen for a wide-open 3 at the top of the arc. The shot was long, but Marcin Gortat fouled (read: threw an elbow into the ribs of) Hibbert, who hit the deck.

That foul put the Pacers in the bonus and Hibbert hit both free throws, making it a ten-point game, 70-60.

On the Wizards’ next possession, Hibbert swatted away Gortat’s pick-and-roll layup attempt. George picked up the loose ball, showed patience in transition, and when double-teamed by Martell Webster and Drew Gooden, he bounce passed to West in the high post. West then waited for Hibbert to establish position in the paint, seal Gortat on the left block, and make the simple right-handed layup. And-1.

Just like that it was a seven-point game.

Meanwhile, Bradley Beal was getting on the bench treatment on his left knee, John Wall was turning down open 3-point shots (preferring instead to put the ball on the floor and crash into a wall of yellow jerseys in the paint), and the Wizards were losing Pacers players in the halfcourt.

The Wizards were going to blow it. It was only a matter of time.




May 12, 8:58 p.m.

Dan Diamond (@ddiamond):

“The Wizards were going to blow it. It was only a matter of time.”

You know—just a week ago, I thought Tuesday would be Washington’s coronation. Instead, it’s a game to stave off elimination. And we all know the odds are not in D.C.’s favor.

JCT, your comment has me wondering: Was it only a matter of time before the Wizards disappointed us? Or alternately, before playoff-tested Indiana reasserted themselves?

Did we expect too much from the Wiz Kids this year?


May 12, 9:25 p.m.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend):

I was right there with you, man. The Wiz Kids looked like experienced toreros in quickly taking down the Bulls. The Pacers, meanwhile, struggled against the Hawks, a team that even with three playoff wins was still sub-.500.

That’s why I predicted the Wizards would advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, beating the dazed and confused Pacers in a slow, but entertaining, seven-game series.

Now, with that shambolic performance at home in Game 3 and having fumbled away a 19-point lead in Game 4, the Wizards look like rodeo clowns: characters without a killer instinct.

I don’t see any way they can come back from down 3-1.

The Pacers? Contenders now, somehow. At the very least, reps in the Eastern Conference Finals.

How quickly the narrative can change in the postseason…

We didn’t expect too much from the Wiz, neither in the regular season nor in the playoffs. They had top-tier talent that never quite found a way to play up to their potential.

How do you see it?


May 12, 9:58 pm

Dan Diamond (@ddiamond):

I was watching Drew Gooden spot up for a desperation 3-pointer last night (it was an airball), and it got me thinking. This is a guy who was out of the league—a guy getting his run in at the Bethesda JCC—just a few months ago.

It’s a bad, bad sign if the Wizards are counting on him for a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

That’s no knock to Gooden. His season is an amazing story. But it’s an indicator that this Wizards team isn’t quite the contender that we hoped it would be.

So I think I disagree with you, JCT. A team with “top-tier talent” doesn’t ride Gooden or Harrington in the fourth quarter of a must-win playoff game. The Wizards’ holes and inexperience seemed clear at the start of the season and have been laid bare this past week.

Let’s say you could wave G-Wiz’s wand and add one, reasonable-salaried player to this Washington team. You’ve studied the Wizards so closely all year—what did this roster need that it lacked? Another big man who could muscle Hibbert out of the paint? A reliable third guard with a deadeye outside shot?

We’re both pessimistic about the fate of this series…but maybe it’s too soon to start giving the eulogy. Can the Wizards at least extend the series on Tuesday night?




May 12, 11:14 p.m.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend):

I remember that Gooden airball. It came after the Pacers, who had trailed since the first quarter, took the lead back, 92-91. On that possession Wall tried to run a pick-and-roll with Nene and almost turned the ball over on a jump-pass in the paint. It was actually Gooden (who leads the Wizards in plus/minus during the playoffs) who recovered the loose ball, preventing a Paul George breakaway dunk. Wall got the ball back from Gooden immediately and proceeded to … well, pound the rock on the perimeter, Eric Maynor-style, before having his layup blocked at the rim with a second left on the shot clock.

But you’re right. It is a bad sign that the Wizards are counting on Drew Gooden (and Al Harrington, and at one point Garrett Temple) to punch their tickets to the next round.

Oh, to be clear: I have never once this season called the Wizards a contender. I’ve been singing that “Pretender” tune since January, when they were .500, and certainly before if anyone would have asked me. But their starting five, by the numbers, was among the best in the NBA. Certainly among the best in the East.

Randy Wittman also benched Gortat for the entirety of the fourth quarter in Game 4. The very same Gortat who was, arguably, the Wizards’ most important player outside of Wall and Trevor Ariza. As I tweeted after the game, somewhere there’s a coach who could have gotten something out of Mr. Hammer/Machine, even on a so-called “off night.”

And as good as Wittman was at times this year and during the Bulls series, surely somewhere there is a coach who could get more out of every player on the Wizards roster. … Maybe that’s exactly what I conjure with G-Wiz’s wand: new management, new X’s and O’s, or a new clipboard philosophy.

“Nothing changes” has been Wittman’s mantra this season (though Witt played more small ball in Game 4). The 1-seed Pacers will close the book on the Wizards’ 2013-14 season on Tuesday night unless something does.

You were more optimistic about the Wizards this season than you have been in years. TAI’s Optimism Index proves that. How are you feeling about the Wiz Kids right now? Will we see a Game 6? And where do you think they’ll go from here?


May 13, 8:59 a.m.

Dan Diamond (@ddiamond):

You know, Bill Simmons says that Game 5 of a series is the best game. That the two teams have each other’s measure and can really go to war.

And seeing that D.C. had the edge so often in the first four games… I’d like to think that Washington can pull out the victory that seemed to be theirs in Games 2 and 4. But it will require bodying Hibbert more and as you point out, JCT, something to change—an overdue shooting performance by Wall, maybe—at minimum.

I’m feeling great about the Wizards, somewhat paradoxically. It was an uneven season, and the past three games leave a bit of a stink.

But the team’s breakthroughs — a winning record! A playoff series victory! An all-star — shouldn’t get overlooked by suddenly inflated expectations. It still feels like an A-minus season to me, no matter what happens on Tuesday night. Maybe that’s the new optimistic me talking. But if you had to grade the year, what would you give the team?

I hope the Wizards pull off a surprise tonight. I really hope they build on this season and make the conference finals next year, at least.

I really, really hope they don’t pull a Grunfeld and recommit in full to the same team.

Where do you see the Wizards going from here? Was this the first of multiple playoff appearances? Or should we play the Curse of Les Boulez odds and expect a backsliding into the lottery in 2015?


May 13, 10:42 a.m.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend):

Good morning, sir. I actually feel better about the Wizards’ chances in Game 5 today than I did last night.

They will need to body Hibbert more, flop more, and, perhaps most importantly, pull him away from the basket.

Fun (or not-so-fun) fact: Through the first three games, the Wizards were shooting better with Hibbert defending the rim (44.44%) than they were as a team during the playoffs (42.5%). But in Game 4, the Wiz shot just 1-for-15 (that’s 6.7%) with the big man patrolling the painted area. That brings their series shooting percentage vs. Hibbert down to .309, about his DFG% in the regular season.

More pick-and-rolls—and more patience in those sets—could help D.C.’s Wizards find better looks, get Gortat going, and help Wall finally find his groove.

Wall’s well overdue for an efficient shooting night. He ranks 19th in total FGA in the playoffs (128), but is making just 34.4 percent of his shots from the field, the worst rate among the 50 players with the most attempts. (He’s also shooting 18.2 percent from 3.)

What would I grade the season?

/opens Wizards Yelp app

/selects 3.5 stars

/comments: Fun atmosphere, decent eats, and a positive experience overall. But the service was slow, the appetizers I ordered were on the cold side, and the line to get in was around the door. I guess that’s typical for a new restaurant in D.C. I won’t rush back for lunch, but would happily stop by for drinks with some friends after work.

I, too, really, really, really hope they don’t pull a Grunfeld and recommit to the same team. And yet they passed on a fresh start before the 2012-13 season, giving both Grunfeld and Wittman two-year extensions…

Continuity! Nothing changes! Time is a flat circle and Ernie Grunfeld is the Yellow King!

As for where the Wizards go from here:

Wall finished his fourth season (266 games) with career averages of 17.7 points, 8.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. He joins three players in NBA history to do that: Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Chris Paul. Wall will only get better as a floor general. He has, at times, looked like a bigger, more athletic Tony Parker. Maybe long-time Spurs coach and current Wiz assistant Don Newman can mold him after his favorite Frenchman.

Beal is no longer a volume shooter. He’s also led the Wizards in scoring in five of their nine playoff games. This offseason, he’ll pick up one of three things: a better mid-range jumper, tighter handles, or a post-game. Better ball skills could actually help his mid-range game. A move right and left toward the basket, plus improved floater (he already has a beautiful step-back), will make Beal nearly impossible to defend.

I don’t anticipate an appearance in the lottery next season. But I also don’t anticipate NBA Finals T-shirts with the Wizards logo on them, either. The team still has too many questions to answer.

Who is Otto Porter? Who’ll play center next year? What happened to all the “depth” that could have saved this season after Okafor got hurt—as well as this year’s first-round pick? Will the Wiz buy-out Andre Miller? Will free agents take pay cuts to play in D.C.? And how much does Nene have left in the tank? (Does God give free refills?)


May 13, 11:00 a.m.

Dan Diamond (@ddiamond):

You’re a true detective, JCT. Here’s to one more big playoff game—and if tonight’s the last night of the season, solving more of these questions next year.




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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.