Key Legislature: Wizards 106 vs Pacers 123 — Script It, Grip It and Rip It | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 106 vs Pacers 123 — Script It, Grip It and Rip It

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Updated: November 25, 2015

TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs Pacers, Regular Season Game 11, Nov. 24, 2015, by John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)

pacers

Paul George and C.J. Miles combined to score 72 points and crashed the Tuesday night party at the Verizon Center. No Wizards were spared in this deluge, drowned by a tidal wave of 3-pointers.

The Indiana Pacers, as a team, shot 73 percent from 3 (19-for-26), the best ever 3-point percentage for an NBA team with at least 25 attempts, per know-it-all stat house Elias Sports. George and Miles made the entire lower bowl of the arena part of their splash zone, shooting 7-for-8 and 8-for-9 respectively, with seemingly no respect for whichever desperate Wizards defender inserted a hand into their sightlines.

“I think we just had an exceptional shooting night from the perimeter,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said after the game, playing down the import of playing a small-ball lineup featuring a 3-4 combo of George and Miles. “Exceptional” is an apt description. What was not exceptional, in very clear hindsight, was that many of the pre-game storylines for this contest actually looked more like script 48 minutes later.

To wit… Storyline: Paul George would leave any and all Wizards who dared step to him broken with effectiveness that’d make Perses, Titan lord of destruction, green with envy. He entered the game averaging 28.4 points per game in the previous nine, while shooting 47 percent from the field and better than 48 percent from 3.

The warning signs—loud, clear, near—were there within the game’s first few minutes. George hit a 3 over Otto Porter (who at that point in history was allowing opponents to shoot 53.6% from the field), cut baseline on a slow break to polish the rim with a double-clutch reverse slam, and then forced an early, easy foul on Porter—tall enough but nowhere near quick enough to stay with Indiana’s best.

Porter, of course, wasn’t the only defender thrown at George on the night. But others, including Bradley Beal, who George probably didn’t even see from his 6-foot-9 perch, didn’t fare much better.

*checks box*

Storyline: The Pacers, engines ready and revved, would speed to an early lead, aided by an open outside lane (37.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc, ranked 4th in the NBA) and a team-wide ability to cut off passing and driving lanes (2nd in both steals per game and Opponent Turnover Ratio).

Indiana’s 33 first-quarter points, obviously helped by Miles picking on Kris Humphries, put them ahead by two points after 12 minutes. They scored 29 in the second (beating their huge 26.1 second-quarter scoring average) to lead 62-61 at halftime. The Pacers were 8-2 on the season with a lead going into the third quarter, so the caution flag was waving, but there were enough reasons for Washington to remain optimistic.

The ball was moving around nicely enough for the Wizards (even with John Wall on the bench) that, if you were to have squinted, you may have mistaken them for the Warriors, who average the fewest seconds and dribbles per touch. Nene was fighting through contact and tugs of his XXL jersey without complaint (but still missing free throws). Wall, by far the best perimeter defender on the squad (sporting the best Defensive FG% and forcing the most deflections), was taking pride in contesting the Pacers’ shooters, leaving his defensive arm above his head as if it were a follow-through on a jump shot. And as a team, the Wizards at the break were giving the Pacers a taste of some of their own defensive dust, tied for seven steals, and down just one point despite Indiana shooting 80 percent from 3 and 60 percent from the field.

Turnovers and missed shots rolled out of both locker rooms to start the second half. Beal, finally, grabbed the spotlight like it was Harry Potter’s Golden Snitch with a chase-down block on George in transition, then finishing a layup through a referee whistle on the other end (he would miss the free throw). The problem, particularly for Washington, was that for the rest of the period, stars would star and role players, other than Miles, would contribute little besides bricked 3s. For the Pacers that was good enough. They led by 11 after three quarters.

*checks box*

Storyline: Long-standing offensive and defensive issues, including an odd opposition to allow John Wall to rip apart defenses with the pick-and-roll and an inability to defend the perimeter, especially the 3-point shot (1), would make navigating rough waters tough for Randy Wittman.

John Wall has been scoring or creating nearly a point per pick-and-roll possession this season (0.98), the second-best mark in the league behind Chris Paul. Marcin Gortat, the big man with a scoring inclination, has been averaging 1.2 points per roll-man possession but only on 25 such possessions through 10 games. On Tuesday, despite all the data in this combo’s favor, Gortat would see just one roll-man possession (run with Beal, which resulted in a made Gary Neal 3 from the corner). And Wall would initiate just seven pick-and-roll possessions, none with Gortat, bringing his total to 84 on the season. Not ideal.

Lineups are still being sorted out, which is part of this basketball operation’s complications. For example, Humphries started the fourth quarter with Sessions, Neal, Beal, and Nene. That lineup had previously played just 150 seconds together. They failed to trim the Pacers lead, due in part to Hump’s inexplicable (perhaps coach-instructed) insistence on crawling into Lavoy Allen’s shorts from beyond 23 feet (Allen is a 14.3% shooter from 3), an inability to capitalize on simple scoring opportunities (like layups), and Nene being asked to be both rim protector and facilitator—unfair, perhaps, because he’s the equivalent of a once powerful generator on its last gasps 20 years into a zombie apocalypse.

Humphries stayed on the court after a timeout, with Wall checking in for Sessions, to form a five-man unit that had played less than a minute on the season. This lineup failed to trim the Pacers lead.

Minutes later, Porter checked in for Humphries. George crossed-up Beal, stepped into a 3 and made it (duh). Neal, Washington’s high-point man, crossed-up a defender and stepped back into a 3: count it. But in between, Beal missed two looks and George would make another shot over Porter. Neal added a baseline floater and another 3-pointer but it wasn’t enough. This lineup also failed to trim the Pacers’ lead.

Meanwhile, Gortat, on one a knee at the scorer’s table for more than a minute, was unable to enter the fray (with less than five to play), and Dudley hadn’t left his seat on the bench, nor would he.

With about two and a half minutes to play, as fans began to scramble to the exits, the Wizards accepted their fate and Wittman pulled the starters. DeJuan Blair, Kelly Oubre, Temple, Neal, and Sessions took on Indiana’s starting five, still on the court. In the final minute, Paul George spun past Oubre, hesitated 18 feet from the hoop, took a bump, and fell away toward his own bench for a midrange make. That shot gave him 40 points, the most since scoring 39 in Game 4 of the 2014 Eastern Conference semis … against the Wizards.

After going down 101-88 with nine minutes left to play, the Wizards pulled within 10 points on four different occasions, but they were never able to crack single digits. The Pacers had an answer each time. To Washington’s credit, however, they did score 106 when the Pacers had been allowing just 92.3 pointers per game over their last nine. Not enough when you give up 123.

*checks storyline, checks box*

“One of my old coaches used to say, ‘Some games, no matter what you do, you are going to win. And some games, no matter what you do, you are going to lose,’” Gary Neal said post-game. “With those guys shooting the ball like that, I think tonight was one of those nights.”

Sure was.


  1. Washington opponents entered the game shooting 41.7% from the left corner (11th best), 41% from the right (6th best) and 35.6% from above the break (6th best).
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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.