Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Wait? The Wizards? Mighty? If anything, the Pacers have emerged from the ashes like a Phoenix and the Wizards have played like…well…#SoWizards. The wool has been pulled over our eyes again. The dominant performance in Game 1. Charles Barkley telling us the beat down and impending series upset from the Wizards was going to be “quick and painless.” A girl from across the bar winked at us and bit a cherry off the stem while making intense eye contact with us and we assumed she wanted to marry us. Slow down…baby steps.
Unfortunately the Wizards and their fans put the horse before the carriage, whatever the hell that means. Now, here we are, at Game 5. Now, here we are, with the Wizards winning the series coinciding with something that’s less than ten teams have ever done. The last time it happened, it was done by a 2-seed that had home-court advantage against a team that, albeit had Kobe Bryant, also trotted out players like Kwame Brown and Smush Parker for long stretches at a time. It’s a lot easier to come back down from 3-1 when you have to outdo the likes of Luke Walton and Chris Mihm. The Wizards won’t be so lucky. They have a daunting task in front of them, and nothing within the last two contests says they can pull off this improbable feat. The Pacers were in a funk and weren’t getting much. That was our edge. Roy Hibbert was on the back of every milk carton – whole, skim, almond, soy, breast, Cambodian breast – you name it.
Now Hibbert is a combination of Hakeem and David Robinson. He came out with the potential to be a defensive goblin and now he’s dominating the Wizards offensively. Without the motivation of social media, Hibbert might still be in that funk. With malcontents like Gilbert Arenas and the shameless world of Twitter ridiculing him at every turn, there is no doubt some of it fueled Roy Hibbert to fight for his reputation. As much as the Wizards want to be in that short list of series winners that had to win three straight to advance…the Pacers don’t want to be the 1-seed destined for the Conference Finals that lost to the 5-seed. Everyone has a lot to lose and to gain and the Pacers are clearly showing they want it more.
Nenes rim protection has proved very valuable when Indiana forwards and guards have drove into the lane. He has a way of being deceptively unprepared or out of the play before he might throw your shit into the stands.
His jumper has disappeared and he no longer has the confidence to take it without hesitation. His drive into the lane draws no contact and is borderline an attempt to avoid contact – disrupting his own ability to finish. Nene needs to flash early to his sweet spot and attempt every open shot he finds there. David West has clearly invigorated himself on offense and it would help the Wizards cause if he had to play some defense. Gortat is clearly not going to force the Pacers big men to work either, leaving Gooden to shoulder most of the load in the aggressiveness department. The Wizards advantage of having the size to compete with Indy has been rendered useless. Drew Gooden is an exciting asset to have right now, but he should be the interest – not the principle. The Wizards need Nene and Gortat to step up badly.
Wall and Beal have been somewhat of a mixed bag, with Beal being the more reliable one so far. Wall looked like a deer in headlights in Game 4 – and his late game turnovers might have been the fork in a Wizards offense that was clearly well done late into the 4th. George Hill simply doesn’t respect Wall’s handles. He’s played completely off of him at moments, clearly not threatened by his jumper. When Wall drives into the lane, Hill finds ease in being able to poke the ball away because Wall doesn’t keep his body low enough to the ground. Hill also has no fear in swiping away the rock because he fears no retribution from John. If you try to reach on a guy like Monta Ellis or Jamal Crawford well…they’ll make you pay. You reach and next thing you know they’re the complete opposite direction of you and drilling a jumper in your face or driving in with ease. John has to make him pay tonight.