Key Legislature: Wizards 95 at Pacers 99 — A Meaningless Battle for a Hollow Loss | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 95 at Pacers 99 — A Meaningless Battle for a Hollow Loss

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Updated: April 15, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards contest No. 81 versus the Pacers in Indianapolis
via John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend) from Bethesda, Maryland.

DC Council Key Legislature

by John Converse Townsend.

Luis Scola emerged from a frantic fight for a rebound midway through the second quarter. He pivoted away from the basket, into space, and dished to Donald Sloan, who was wide-open at the top of the arc. The lane looked Proactiv clear, as the scramble for the loose ball under Washington’s basket meant that Otto Porter was the only Wizards player above the break—with no shot at cutting off Sloan’s drive. Rasual Butler, frozen at the elbow, and Kevin Seraphin, flatfooted on the block, could only turn their heads and watch as the Pacers guard took off for a right-handed jam.

But there was no highlight reel finish. Kris Humphries, weakside, slid across the restricted area to meet Sloan mid-air, blocking the dunk and recovering the rock with his right hand. Humphries, without a moment’s hesitation, took a few awkward dribbles up the court, past Scola, and dished to Butler, who fed Seraphin in the paint. The possession resulted in free throws—Seraphin made the pair to give the Wizards a 27-23 lead with seven minutes to play in the second quarter.

At the time, in a very low scoring first half, this back-and-forth series felt like a decisive moment in the game. The Pacers had missed three consecutive shots before Sloan had his dunk smothered, and they’d miss five more before C.J. Miles would find the net with fewer than five minutes to play. The Wizards, of course, had their own scoring challenges—a lack of effort, perhaps, or ability, or plain bad luck—but still ended the half up eight points, 41-33.

The two teams were gazpacho hot, combining to shoot 32 percent from the field at halftime. Indiana’s 33 points after two quarters were the fewest allowed by the Wizards in a first half this season. But then the visiting Wizards, locked into the 5-seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, blew the lead and, eventually, the game.

As we’ve come to learn over the previous 80 games this season, and over hundreds of games in seasons past, without easy defense-turned-offense scoring opportunities, Randy Wittman’s Wizards struggle mightily to put away teams. This is exactly why he puts so much emphasis on defense. But basketball is a sport that demands you score more points than your opponent to win, and, despite having a roster full of players who know how to put an orange ball into an orange ring 10 feet above the ground, the Wizards don’t do that with any sort of regularity.

John Wall & Co. shot just 37 percent in the second half. While they scored 12 fast-break points in the first half, they managed just two in the third quarter and tallied no points in transition in the fourth quarter or during either overtime period. The Pacers, meanwhile, shot 50 percent from the field in both the third and fourth quarters, helping them take a four-point lead with two minutes left in the final period.

Wall is the team’s crutch in the clutch, serving as Washington’s only source of scoring inspiration. As usual, he produced the Wizards’ last six points in regulation, but missed two shots from midrange (an off-balance jumper and a floater) in the final 10 seconds.

Bradley Beal (who has, finally, begun to pull-up from behind the arc) opened the scoring for the Wizards with a rare appearance at the free throw line inside the first minute of an embarrassing first overtime for both teams. The Wizards went 1-for-8 from the field, while the Pacers went 2-for-9, including a 29-foot 3-point miss from Paul George as the clock expired.

In the second overtime, with the Pacers leading by two, 94-92, George Hill curled around the 3-point line to receive an inbounds from David West. Beal failed to recognize an opportunity to join Wall in trapping Hill, which allowed the Pacers point guard both the time and space to set up Frank Vogel’s after-timeout offense. A pick-and-roll opened space for West, who faked a move to the basket, pulling Otto Porter (easily convinced) into the painted area. West kicked the ball out to Rodney Stuckey, who would have driven past Porter, but Gortat and Drew Gooden stepped in to seal the paint.

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Wall, however, was tasked with guarding two Pacers players. Washington’s only All-Star and best perimeter defender, by far, tried to jump the outlet pass to West, standing at the top of the key. Problem: Stuckey pivoted and threw an overhead pass to George Hill, wide-open behind the arc. Swish. That was that. That was the deciding moment in the ballgame, one which the Pacers had to win to keep their playoffs hopes alive.

Randy Wittman, after his team handed Indiana their 38th win of the season, said that the experience in a largely meaningless game was still important.

“This was a playoff atmosphere that we’re going to face Saturday or Sunday. I thought it was a good test,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t shoot the ball the best tonight. We got a lot of good looks that didn’t go in, but we still had a chance to win. That’s what we take out of it.”

Wittman’s position on the outcome is fair, given the circumstances, and a chance at victory is always nice. But a second-place finish this weekend against Chicago or Toronto won’t be so easily forgiven.

 

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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.