Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pacers, Game 11 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pacers, Game 11

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Updated: November 24, 2015

Washington Wizards at Indiana Pacers - Nov. 10, 2012

Two seasons ago, the Indiana Pacers knocked the Wizards out of the postseason in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, then lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat. That Pacers team featured a starting lineup of George Hill, Paul George, Lance Stephenson, David West, and Roy Hibbert, and it rolled out a capable second unit of Luis Scola, Danny Granger, Evan Turner, C.J. Watson, and Ian Mahinmi.

Here’s what’s happened in the time that’s passed since that May 2014 ECF: George shattered his right leg in a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage, spent the better part of a year recovering, then got moved to power forward; Stephenson went to Charlotte, then to the Clippers; West signed with the Spurs; Hibbert was traded to the Lakers; Scola went to Toronto; Granger went to the Clippers, then the Heat, then was cut by the Pistons and is now a free agent; Turner joined the weirdly cohesive group of misfits known as the Celtics; and Watson went to Orlando. Only Hill, Mahinmi, and George remain.

In place of those seven departees, who combined to play more than 11,000 minutes in 2013-14 (57.9% of the team’s total minutes), Indiana has added players such as Monta Ellis, Jordan Hill, C.J. Miles, Chase Budinger, Rodney Stuckey, and Glenn Robinson III. The Pacers also drafted promising rookies Joseph Young (best known as last year’s Pac-12 Player of the Year who did this) and Myles Turner (who, while often injured, offers enormous potential in an ever-important style game).

The 2015-16 Pacers, at 8-5 and just above the Wizards in the Eastern Conference standings, have been on a roll since an 0-3 start. Since that losing streak, this is how their season has gone: win three games, lose one, win three games, lose one, win two games, at Wizards on 11/24.

As for the specific matter of Wiz-Pacers, the two teams have a bit of a streaky relationship themselves. In the past 25 regular season games, dating back to the start of the ‘08-09 season, Washington is just 7-18 against Indiana (helped by nine straight wins over the Wizards beginning in 2010.) The Pacers have won the two most recent contests, in early 2015 by a combined six points that featured two overtimes, but the Wizards won the previous three.

Indiana has traditionally done a pretty good job containing John Wall, who tends to rely more on his own offense as the Pacers have had a knack for sealing passing lanes and defending pick-and-rolls. He averages just 6.7 assists but 19.2 points per game against Indiana, one of just eight NBA teams he scores at least 19 per game against. With Hibbert and Stephenson both in different jerseys, Ellis in an Indiana jersey, and George playing the 4 now, Wall will face an entirely different Pacers defense than the ones he’s been attacking for most of his career.

Speaking of George and his switch to an interior (but still very much exterior) role, it’s been a mixed bag so far. He’s averaging career highs in points (24.8 per game, well above his career best of 21.7), assists (4.8), rebounds (8.5), 3-point percentage (.417, on an amazing, and also career-high, 6.5 attempts per game), and free-throw attempts (6.9).

But he’s also averaging a career worst in turnovers (3.5) and relying more on his jump shot than he did even as a wing player.

George has attempted 243 field goals this season; according to NBA.com/Stats, 196 of them have been jumpers, and 60 have been from 15-19 feet away from the basket. That’s some #WittmanBall if I’ve ever seen it. Of those 243 FGA, nearly 66 percent have come from at least 15 feet away from the hoop compared to 20 percent from within five feet and 25.5 percent from 9 feet or less. He’s connected on just 35 percent of those 15-19 foot jumpers, as well as 35 percent on 10-14 footers; compare that to 44.4 percent of 20-29 footers.

In addition, coach Frank Vogel seems to still be in the process of determining how the hell to use this lanky, athletic, 6-foot-9 beast who can casually drain 35-footers. The Pacers’ primary lineup of Hill-Ellis-Miles-George-Mahinmi, which has played 98 minutes together, has mustered an OffRtg of just 87.5 while allowing a DefRtg of 102.5. When they go a bit bigger and sub Miles out for Jordan Hill—their second most used lineup, with 37 minutes played—their OffRtg shoots up to 95.3 but their DefRtg also rises to 105.7. After that, the next six lineups in terms of minutes played have a positive NetRtg, but those six lineups have combined to play just 151 minutes together.

Putting George, listed at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds and a pro who’s played his entire career at the 2 and 3 spots, into the paint was always going to bring some complications. Adding Ellis, accustomed to being the primary ball handler, into the mix was always going to complicate matters further. (Perhaps too much Monta was the biggest issue to start the season.) Swapping David West and Roy Hibbert for Jordan Hill and longtime reserve Mahinmi was never going to be a graceful transition, either.

But the Pacers have won eight of their past 10 games, so maybe they’re figuring it out earlier than everybody expected.

Washington, too, seems to be figuring itself out. The Wizards have won three in a row and haven’t allowed an opponent to reach 100 points in those three wins, a welcome change after giving up triple-digits in five of their first seven games. Their primary starting lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kris Humphries, and Marcin Gortat have an OffRtg of just 91.4 and a DefRtg of 101.2, but that same lineup with Garrett Temple instead of Beal put up an OffRtg of 108.5 and a DefRtg of 98.1 over the past three games. That’s not a suggestion that Temple fits in the starting lineup better than Beal, of course, but rather that the Wizards appear to be finding something resembling a rhythm on both ends of the court.

Again, it’s difficult to make any sort of predictions for this game, as the Pacers look completely different from the squad that knocked Washington out of the postseason two years ago. The Wizards, too, have dramatically altered their makeup.

I’d expect to see an aggressive Wall eager to drive into a sea of Pacers uniforms that doesn’t feature a large No. 55 for the first time in his career, and I’d expect to see a similarly eager Marcin Gortat, happy to battle with Mahinmi instead of Hibbert for once.

This might be the fastest-paced Wizards-Pacers game in a long, long time.

Joining TAI to further break down and, more importantly, give some insider perspective on these new-look Pacers is Tom Lewis (@IndyCornrows) of the Pacers blog Indy Cornrows.


Teams: Wizards vs Pacers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 2.5 points.


Q #1: Some players never recover after a serious injury, either physically or psychologically. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Paul George, who is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and assists. Is he showing any lingering effects from the injury?

@IndyCornrows: After struggling to find his shot in the first couple of games, Paul George has become the dynamic playmaker at both ends of the floor we always hoped he’d be even prior to his injury. His total game has surpassed where he was pre-injury and as he continues to get more comfortable with the new faces and new style of play, everything is coming easier on the offensive end. So far (*knocks on wood*) there haven’t been any lingering effects to start the season. George is playing about 35 minutes per game so we will just have to wait and see if he can hold up through the marathon season. While PG has had plenty of highlight dunks he doesn’t seem quite as explosive, which may be part mental and part physical as he keeps building up his game shape. I spoke with him about this on Saturday and he admitted he’s not quite there but expects to get that on-demand burst back in his game.

Q #2: The Pacers’ pace has increased in each of the past three seasons, going from 92.84 possessions per 48 minutes in 2012-13 to 94.90 in 2013-14 to 95.50 in 2014-15 and up to 98.72 this season. What has been the cause of that trend, and do you expect it to continue?

@IndyCornrowsIt is hard to point to any past seasons for trends since the makeup of the team and offensive approach has changed so drastically. We almost have to throw out everything from last season without Paul George in the mix. Also, with David West and Roy Hibbert playing a big role the past two seasons, the pace had to remain slow. Now the Pacers are using a spread lineup and have more agile bigs even when they use a more traditional lineup. Their brand of pace-and-space ball has increased the pace but is still slower than expected as they figure out how to make it work.

Q #3: How have the losses of Roy Hibbert and David West impacted the team?

@IndyCornrowsAs mentioned above, losing Hibbert and West let the Pacers change from a power post team that relied on half-court sets to a more versatile lineup that wants to run and shoot more 3s. Defense remains a strength but instead of a stout interior defense, the Pacers are using their length and quickness to attack teams on the perimeter and currently sit second in the league in steals. Plus, the current style of play is far more entertaining to watch.

Q #4: With Monta Ellis, George Hill, and Paul George, the Pacers have three players who function best with the ball in their hands. They’re also leading the team in minutes, by far (each gets at least 33 mpg while no other player gets even 28). How has that dynamic worked thus far?

@IndyCornrowsAs with everything thus far, this trio is a work in progress but the chemistry is building nicely. Neither Hill nor Ellis is a true point guard and when they aren’t on the run, Ellis often facilitates the offense as a better ball handler in the pick-and-roll. He can get in the lane and create better than Hill who has benefitted by getting better shots behind the arc, where he is making 45 percent of his 3s. Despite his reputation, Ellis has been a willing cog (and passer) in the offensive attack. It also helps having two players (Ellis and PG) who can create a shot when things break down.

Q #5: The lineup that’s played together the most for Indiana this season has been George Hill, Monta Ellis, Paul George, C.J. Miles, Ian Mahinmi. That lineup has mustered a dreadful 87.5 OffRtg, and a NetRtg of minus-14.9. The next most used lineup is Hill, Ellis, George, Mahinmi, Jordan Hill. That lineup has been better on offense, though hardly Warriors-esque, with a 95.3 OffRtg but has been been worse on defense with a 105.7 DefRtg.

Is Frank Vogel still trying to figure out how this team is most efficient?

@IndyCornrowsFrank Vogel is still figuring out when and where to use his spread lineup to create mismatches and when to play big to matchup with other big lineups. But he is committed to giving that lineup a chance to work through their growing pains and develop as expected. The first three games of the season were clunkers so all of the Pacers numbers have been trending in the right direction over the past ten games. Several minor injuries have also forced Vogel to continually alter his playing rotation and he’s surely seen a few lineups he won’t use again, but the overall defensive numbers are moving in the right direction.

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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.