The Pacers Are The Wizards' Most Favorable Playoff Matchup | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

The Pacers Are The Wizards’ Most Favorable Playoff Matchup

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Updated: March 20, 2018

The Wizards and the Pacers played a game over the weekend that has some members of Wizards faithful wishing they meet again in a first -round playoff matchup. The Wizards won the season series 2-1 but  none of those games were played with Washington’s All-Star John Wall, while the Pacers played the last game without their budding star center, Myles Turner.

Turner’s absence in Saturday’s game greatly impacted how Indiana was able to attack Washington’s defense because the Wizards struggle mightily against big men who can play  in the paint and stretch the floor. Typically when the Wizards play teams with big men who can extend the defense out to the three point line, is that Marcin Gortat ends up roaming too far away from the basket and dramatically lowering his opportunities to be effective defensively.

In Saturday’s game, Gortat was able to get his “Fred Flinstone” on and play a style of basketball that is much more similar to the prehistoric ages of paint dominant big men, rather than the innovative “pace and space” brand of basketball that is currently sweeping the NBA. The Wizards ability to be versatile and play many styles has lead to moderate playoff success in the past and should bode well for the future.

 

Wizards Matchup Extremely Well With Pacers

If there were  power rankings of desirable first round playoff opponents for the Wizards, the Indiana Pacers would have to rank at the top of the list. When asked about potentially playing the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, Bradley Beal was cautiously optimistic:

“It doesn’t matter who we play. Every team is going to be tough; nobody is going to be easy to beat and it’s the first to four. No matter who we match up against and whoever we go against, we gotta play and you gotta bring your ‘A’ games. I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them, but it’s not 100 percent we will be playing them. Hypothetically, I do like Indiana.”

Beal has learned well the political correctness from his extended time in D.C. because he made sure to not give the Pacers any bulletin board material while explaining that bringing an ‘A’ game is a must, no matter who the opponent. That being said: “Hypothetically I do like Indiana” is the key sentence here. In this hypothetical world, Beal would relish the opportunity to outplay another fellow shooting guard in the East as he has in his six previous playoff shooting guard duels. Victor Oladipo is having an amazing year as a fellow first time All-Star, but there is no indication that Beal can not outplay him as he did arguably better players such as Jimmy Butler in 2014 or DeMar DeRozan in 2015. Beal’s hint of confidence in that last sentence is rooted in his knowledge of past playoff success, and an understanding that of the Wizards can stop Oladipo from scoring easy buckets and transition and getting into the paint, then they have a good chance of slowing him down all together.

When Kelly Oubre was asked about a potential meeting with the Pacers, he did not hesitate to indicate how they matchup with Indiana:

 “Very well, honestly,” Oubre said. “They have a lot of athletic young guards, big men who can score the ball as well. It’s an even matchup all the way through. It’s just about who wants it more.”

Marcin Gortat also likes the Wizards’ potential matchup with Indiana:

 “I think we match up good. We just had a much better effort today than we had last time at home. We made a little adjustment at halftime, on the pick-and-roll. If we’re going to come out ready to play, come out with that energy and focus, we’re okay. We’re going to be a good team, but it has to be consistent.”

Gortat scored 18 points on Saturday night, which was more points than he had in his previous four games combined. The Polish Machine was able to take advantage of a matchup against another prehistoric big-man, Al Jefferson. Gortat and Jefferson have battled in this league for over a decade, and even though their roles as traditional big men are fleeting,  Jefferson was still very complimentary of Gortat’s skillset and performance on Saturday night:

“Gortat is a moving big. He does all the dirty work. He can rebound, [play] offense, [play] defense. He is going to set good picks. He is going to roll to the basket. He is going to find a way. He knows how to read the boys when they get to the basket. He knows how to get the open spot and hit that shot. He is just one of those guys. He has a feel for the ball and a feel for the game. He knows where to be and how to get there to get to his shot. I have been playing against him for over 11 years now, and ever since he was a rookie until now, that is one thing he has always been good at.”

All of the glowing words that Jefferson said of Gortat were true and was definitely a contributing factor as to why Gortat was able to have success against the Pacers. That same scouting report is also the same reason why Gortat will be somewhat of a liability in a potential playoff matchup with the Pacers when Turner is in the lineup. Luckily for the Wizards, they have the roster construction to throw different looks at Indiana in a potential playoff series and slow down a three-point shooting big man such as Myles Turner.

Ian Mahinmi would most definitely be called on from the bullpen in that situation to use his athleticism to be able to stave off Turner from the three-point line. On Saturday Mahinmi only played nine minutes of game action, as he wasn’t particularly needed in that game because Indiana played super small with Trevor Booker at center when Jefferson was not in the game. If push comes to shove, the Wizards will have no problem utilizing Mahinmi in favorable matchups and putting him on ice in not-so favorable ones.

The Wizards will more than likely finish somewhere between the third and sixth seeds, and the other three teams that are jockeying for positioning in those slots are the Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Indiana Pacers. If I were to rank them from the most favorable matchup to least, I would have to put the Pacers first, the Cavaliers second, and the Philadelphia 76ers as the least favorable.

Indiana clearly has the least amount of talent among the three teams and although Myles Turner is a mismatch for the Wizards, they at least have solutions at being able to slow him down. The Wizards players feel confident matching up with the Pacers and that confidence can go a long way in terms of assertiveness on the court.

Cleveland is in a vulnerable state right now because of their injury problems and lack of continuity between all of their new pieces they added at the trade deadline, but they still have Lebron James so they will always be formidable opponents. The Cavaliers recieved a boost in their lineup when Kevin Love returned last night in their win against the Milwaukee Bucks. As they celebrated his return, they also have to deal with the health ailments of head coach Tyronn Lue who is stated to miss some time due to some chest pains and fatigue that he has been experiencing. Sixers center Joel Embiid gives the Wizards the same issues that Myles Turner would give, except for Embiid is almost twice as effective. There is a strong possibility that if the Sixers and Wizards were to meet that Embiid would be the best player on the court in that series. Philadelphia has also surrounded him by talented shooters and play-makers that would make it very difficult for the Wizards to be able to defend.

Given by their play and their words, the  Wizards seem confident with potentially facing the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, and based on the other potential opponents, Indiana would be by far the most favorable matchup. Although the Wizards’ magic number to clinch a playoff berth is three, they still have 12 remaining games which will determine how they will be seeded  so it would behoove the Wizards to take Beal’s advice and continue to bring their “A” game no matter who the opponent may be.

 

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.