Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pacers, Game 62 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pacers, Game 62

Updated: March 5, 2016

Washington Wizards at Indiana Pacers - Nov. 10, 2012

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.

I’m no expert on these matters,
but I’m fairly confident that if we just close our eyes, put our fingers in our ears, and go “lalalalala” for awhile, that whole “losing by 25 last night” thing never actually happened. And hey, even if that’s not the case, tonight’s opponent, the Indiana Pacers, lost last night as well. So take that. Or something.

The Pacers have fallen into a semi-rut after starting the season hot; a 12-5 beginning gave way to 16-9, which gave way to 22-16, and then six losses in seven games (1) sent them trudging toward the land of mediocrity. Clinging to the seventh seed at 32-30, Indiana has a chance to distance itself from Detroit (31-30), Chicago (30-30), and, of course, Washington (30-31) with a visit to the nation’s capital on Saturday night. A Wizards win, however, would further complicate an already jumbled bunch of very average teams lurking around the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff standings.

The Wizards’ matchup with Paul George and Co. by far represents the most meaningful game of the next four. A three-game Western Conference road swing awaits after the Indy clash, and while positive results would bring all the good vibes back to the District, the wins and losses against Eastern Conference foes—especially against the likes of the Pacers and Bulls, Washington opponents on either end of the road trip—impact the postseason picture dramatically more. The phrase “controlling your own destiny” can’t technically be applied here, but it’s becoming clearer by the day how much these intra-conference games will ultimately decide the playoff seeding.

Over the past five seasons, Washington is 5-11 against Indiana in regular season play, but the magic practitioners have won four of the past seven meetings. As recently as two seasons ago, these two teams were very much built in the mold of traditional Eastern Conference teams. Games would regularly finish with one or both teams failing to reach 90 points, and hard-nosed, gritty, defensive play took precedent over flashy offense (John Wall and Paul George serving as the exceptions), pace, and 3-point shooting. Now, things (and the rosters) done changed, and both teams are in the top half of the league in points per game and in the top 10 in pace. Looking at the matchups over the past five seasons, the evolution is evident.

As those conveniently placed red boxes illustrate, the scoring and 3-point shooting have soared in the past two seasons. In the first 10 meetings, a team shot at least 24 triples just once, when Washington went 10-for-24 in a losing effort in 2012. In the six most recent meetings, they’ve done so eight times, including the Pacers reaching that number in five straight games before a dreadful 3-for-17 showing in January—which came after a dazzling 19-for-26 performance when George and C.J. Miles combined to shoot 15-for-17 from the 3-point line.

Not coincidentally, the Wizards have scored at least 95 points in each of the past six meetings after reaching 95 just twice in the previous 10 games, and they’ve scored 100 in three of the past four. The Pacers played most of last season without their primary offensive weapon in George, but they’ve still scored at least 90 in six straight games against the Wizards, and they’ve reached 99 in four straight. Put another way: Each team reached triple digits in three of the past four matchups, which is something that didn’t happen once in the previous 12.

This is the final time Washington and Indiana will meet in the regular season, and it’s unlikely the two will face off in the postseason assuming they both even qualify.  As a result, the Wizards won’t get a firsthand look at the Ty Lawson Pacers experiment (he’s not expected to join the Pacers until Sunday or Monday), unless he hangs around for the 2016-17 season. However, by all accounts, the Pacers are a much more functional organization than the Houston Rockets (Lawson’s former team) at the moment, and they might actually be able to make the dodgy point guard work. If so, Larry Bird’s squad could be dangerous in the final stretch of the season. While Markieff Morris is steadily finding his groove with the Wizards, at least on offense, Washington still isn’t exactly making opponents shake in their little space boots.

Joining me again to talk Wiz-Pacers like it’s November 2015 is Tom Lewis from the Pacers blog Indy Cornrows. He follows up on our discussion from before the teams’ first matchup this season and explains how the Pacers have evolved since.

1. When we last talked, back in November, the Pacers were operating at a pace of 98.72 possessions per 48 minutes, more than three possessions more than in any of the previous three seasons. Since then, they’ve upped that number to 99.32, the ninth fastest pace in the NBA.

However, they’re only scoring 101.9 points per 100 possessions, the eight worst Offensive Rating in the league. Regarding the faster offense, does it need to be slowed down, sped up more, or left to function as is?

@IndyCornrows: There have been a few factors impacting the Pacers offensive problems over the past couple of months but the pace of play isn’t the main culprit, instead simple execution and consistency are the issues. If anything, this group would benefit from playing a little faster and pushing the ball up the floor since even their bigs can run the floor. Both Monta Ellis and George Hill are combo guards as opposed to a true point guard and as such, both are streaky when trying to attack. Paul George has been scoring well of late but also has clunker games that hurt the offensive attack since he usually tries to shoot his way out of a bad night. Injuries have also been a factor with both Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles, two key players for providing offense on the reserve unit, have missed significant time which has kept the playing rotation in flux for about six weeks.

2. Back then, I asked you about Monta Ellis, George Hill, and Paul George all preferring to work with the ball in their hands. They led Indiana in minutes then, with each of them 33 mpg and everybody else on the team below 28 mpg; those numbers are even more disparate now, with each member of that trio playing at least 34 mpg and nobody else playing even 25 mpg.

That three-man unit has played a team-high 1,240 minutes together and compiled a plus-2.2 Net Rating, so it’s obviously working out alright, at least on paper. How has that dynamic evolved over the course of the season?

@IndyCornrows: The trio is working out ‘alright ‘which I think is a perfect description at this point. They’ve shown they can play with anyone in the league but as mentioned above, they haven’t been able to play at a high level consistently enough to be more than ‘alright’ and have really struggled to deliver in several late-game situations which have turned W’s into L’s. Monta’s level of play usually depends the schedule, as he’s been fabulous with days off and not so good with no rest between games. There is a reason Larry Bird is taking a flyer on bringing in Ty Lawson, and that’s because this team needs a true point guard who can be a floor general when the going gets tough.

3. Start with the core of Ellis, Hill, George, and Ian Mahinmi. Here are the lineup’s numbers with the three primary fifth men in that rotation.

CJ Miles: 100.5 OffRtg, 106.9 DefRtg, -6.5 NetRtg
Myles Turner: 101.6 OffRtg, 89.5 DefRtg, 12.1 NetRtg
Lavoy Allen: 96.5 OffRtg, 89.2 DefRtg, 7.3 NetRtg

The takeaway from those numbers is Turner is makes the team run smoothly on both ends of the court, while Miles is a defensive liability and Allen somewhat hinders the offense. Is that about right, based on what you’ve seen?

@IndyCornrows: Since Myles Turner started playing significant minutes the playing rotation has definitely improved. Again, injuries have kept the full rotation from playing at the same time and recently teams have given the Pacers fits by forcing Turner to guard a smaller power forward. C.J. Miles’ numbers are hard to judge because he was the small-ball spread 4 guinea pig for the first couple months of the season and it simply wasn’t a good long-term fit. When he returns Miles should be able to give an offensive boost off the bench without being a majore defensive liability. Lavoy Allen has been a fantastic utility big man and seems to always leave the court with a net positive rating regardless of the lineup around him. No doubt, he’s not an offensive threat but what he does is reliable which on this team, is quite valuable.

  1. Including a home loss to the Wiz.
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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.