Eastern Conference Second Round – Game 2 – Series 1-1
Pacers 86 – Wizards 82
May 7, 2014
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
The Wizards youth struggled to simmer their strong inclinations for heroism in Indy last night. Their horny lust for national impressions left them hapless with blue balls and a ton of bricked 3’s, scotch-taping the bow on a gift-wrapped Game 2 win for an Indiana team that practically gave every limb they had just to win by 4.
I realized their knack for hero-ball well before the inexplicable long range bombs were misfiring at the end of the game. After the Wizards scored the first two buckets of the second half and took a 6-point 49-43 lead, I noticed the Wizards began to feel an unrelenting want to keep striking in front of the rowdy away crowd. Beal clanked a shot from deep range that was well contested before Wall, Ariza, and Beal again chucked 3 after 3. Meanwhile, a revitalized Roy Hibbert would find sweet spots at the rim while Lance Stephenson decided to also show up to the party after missing his first nine shots.
But the stake that drove right into the Wizards’ heart was the ill-advised long balls John mindlessly threw up when the Wizards really didn’t need them. Beal partook in the brick bombardment as well but eventually one of his finally sunk, bringing the Wizards to within 2 before David West hit two free throws to seal it.
The silver lining is that the Wizards got dealt Hibbert’s best performance, got no whistle love, missed a ton of 3’s and free throws, scored just ONE point in transition, but yet in spite of all that still remained in position to win Game 2. Clearly, there are lessons to be learned, adjustments to be made, but no JTIII interventions. Wall must take a step back and simmer his postseason hormones and not allow the limelight to drift him away from his game. He’s shot the ball terribly all postseason long and despite that, he still wanted to shoot his way to a win. Uh uh.
This ‘Space Jam’ spoof featuring Roy Hibbert (in place of the original actor, Charles Barkley) is the reason why the Internet is the greatest single thing ever invented by humans.
ROY HIBBERT’S DEMISE & REJUVENATION
Roy Hibbert’s basketball jones: depleted and crushed, then reformulated.
It was inevitable. At some point, these Wizards were bound for some serious playoff treatment. After all, if Mike Dunleavy has been the only force that’s pushed them to the brink, then yes, they’ve been seriously overdue. And what more fitting than The Demise and Rejuvenation of Roy Hibbert as the narrative for the Pacers win. Since the All-Star break, Hibbert had been the victim of an unforgiving regression as his averages and minutes per game gradually dropped week after week, pummeling the Pacers – who had lost just 13 of their first 57 games only to lose 13 of their final 25 – down to simple averageness. These playoffs have been a continuance of struggle for Hibbert and his worst outing came in Game 1 against Washington, triggering an emergency collect call to Hibbert’s former coach John Thompson III to conduct an intervention and give him the textbook “WHAT’S WRONG WITCHU BOY?!” scolding.
Fuckin’ Hibbert, man. He came out the gates too energized and vitalized, trying hard to fight against smirks and grins after every bucket like a 5th grader. He gunned down the floor in transition, aptly positioned himself under the rim for easy buckets, rotated timely on defense to contest balls, and drew a merry crowd out of the Bankers Life faithful to help fuel the Pacers’ attack.
Before the Wizards even got on the board the Pacers had seven points, five of them by way of Hibbert. Roy had 17 by halftime and finished with 28. His pregame pep-talk with JTIII, his teammates determination to get him back on his feet, the crowd’s frantic support, the officials’ pity; Hibbert had all the tools for a bounce-back performance.
Hibbert actually credited his bromance with Paul George for his breakout performance, saying George took him out on his boat and they fished for a few hours, getting their mind off things. What Hibbert didn’t mention was the likely pizza and ice cream he was treated to afterwards.
“I seriously believe that the biggest person that helped me out here tonight was Paul. Yesterday after practice, he invited me out on his boat and we fished for about two hours, and just relaxed and didn’t talk about basketball. We just talked about life and trying to catch some bass. He reached out and got my mind off things.”
STANDING GROUND WITH THEIR BACK AGAINST THE ROPES
At points during the match last night the Wizards were practically arching backwards over the ropes as the Pacers tried to muscle away with the game. But patiently the Wizards stood their ground, bob and weaved a few Pacer punches, withstood a few Lance Stephenson 3’s, took some Hibbert buckets, and eventually turned back to their blueprint (NOT Jeff Teague’s), never letting things get out of hand. Despite an 11-point 3rd quarter swing in which the Wizards went from leading by 6 to trailing by 5, the Wizards never gave up their composure. This is something I’ve been raving about with these guys since the beginning of the postseason. It’s something I’ve exalted Randy Wittman for. It’s the reason why I forget Bradley Beal is only 20 years old.
But credit last night’s perseverance to Marcin Gortat , who had his best game of the playoffs so far. He was feeling himself in that 3rd quarter, opening the second half with another pounding slam (his first one came in the first half, consequently ending Ian Mahinmi’s life). The execution of pick and rolls with both Beal and Wall were perfect, allowing him to both glide to the rim with ease, or hit a high percentage midrange.
The blueprint I was speaking of earlier? Yeah, Jeff Teague, save your shitty diagrams. No one collapses the defense better than John Wall. No one makes a deciding play after said collapse better than John Wall. A wide open Ariza corner 3 created by a John Wall drive and kick left the Wizards in solid shape going into the 4th. There’s little more you can ask from a team in uncharted territory, in the 2nd round of the playoffs, constantly evading a potential meltdown. You can definitely use these factors as a testament to a potential recovery game in DC on Friday.
Marcin Gortat – 21 points, 10-15 FG, 11 rebounds
While the next day headlines badger about Hibbert’s coming out party, I’ll carry on and just gloat about Marcin Gortat, who had also struggled offensively. Prior to last night, Gortat had just been shooting 37% from the field and averaging just 11 points. He’s been reliable on defense and on the boards but it was his offense that helped repel the Pacers’ attack in the 3rd quarter and the keep the game within reach. As mentioned above, the pick and roll played to perfection for Gortat and his guards, just not enough of it was executed. Gortat also just took two free throw attempts (1-2), in high contrast to Hibbert’s eight (8-8).
A forgettable night for:
John Wall – 2-13 FG, 0-4 3-PT, hero-ball culprit
A game manager all season; a total game manager in Game 2 he was not, especially late. John Wall stamped this Wizards loss with a collection of hero-ball shot attempts in the closing moments of the game, diminishing away any hope of returning home 2-0. The shots weren’t exactly awful, you just kind of wish he’d process the play a little further before deciding to chuck. To his credit, he did manage to find his teammates for 8 dishes, had a sweet block of George Hill’s shot, and committed just one turnover.
Key stat of the game:
One transition point
This poor stat can also be a testament to Wall’s lack of game managing in Game 2. The Pacers held off any opportunity for the Wizards to score in transition which hampered Washington’s offensive efficiency. This is an area that Randy Wittman should be critical of as he prepares his Game 3 adjustments. As evidenced often times this season, the pace of the game must simply be in the Wizards’ favor if they care to have an advantage. The Pacers are a bigger, slower team with burly guys like Hibbert who run huskily down court. Wall must keep the ball in his hands and rapidly steer his offense in transition to keep the Pacers’ defense on their heels, and more importantly, to earn more trips to the line.
Adjustments. Adjustments. Adjustments.
The numbers taken from this game formulate a perfect display of evidence as to why the Wizards failed to pull this one out. But even then, you have to keep reminding yourself that they lost by just FOUR points. Check out these dooming factors:
– Hibbert had his best game in five months.
– The Wizards missed 16 of 21 three-point shots.
– The Wizards attempted 9 less free throws than the Pacers, and Indiana converted 13 more than the Wizards.
– The Wizards scored just 1 point in transition, to Indiana’s 10.
– The Wizards were outscored in the paint 40-34.
Also take in the fact that the Wizards were pounced on right out the gates by the Pacers, the #1 seed, playing at home, in a desperation game for them in front of a desperate crowd. The Wizards fell behind by scores of 7-0 and 15-7 early, but as they’ve proved all season long and especially in these playoffs, they never let up. They never foil with their backs against the ropes, and they never succumb to game-changing momentum swings.
The Wizards must adjust their interior defense and find a way to contend Hibbert in his sweet spots under the rim, while preventing the Pacers from prospering with effective lane penetration. Often times last night we observed Hibbert’s man, usually Gortat, break away to help defend penetration, leaving Hibbert open to receive a pass for an easy bucket.
As mentioned above, the Wizards need to go back to pushing and pressing. Several times throughout the night, whether coming off a defensive rebound or a turnover, Wall was not the ball handler coming up court, thusly slowing down the pace of the game and, well, yeah..just one point in transition. PUSH PUSH PUSH!
Make your goddamn free throws, Wiz Kids. We complain so much about the unfair officiating and the lack of whistles and trips to the line, but when the Wizards DO get there (12 times last night), can we make more than just half of them? The Wizards missed 7 free throws. They lost by 4. That will always be the determining factor.
The Wizards have played swell in this series so far. A few brainfarts and mishaps can be addressed and maybe a few strategies tweaked. They’re coming back home with the series split at 1 against the best team in the East and even after a heartbreaking loss, they are still playing overwhelmingly better.
Can’t wait for tomorrow night.