Mar 21, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Washington Wizards shooting guard Jordan Crawford (15) brings the ball up court during the first half against the New Jersey Nets at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

Game Preview: Indiana Pacers @ Washington Wizards

Indiana (26-18, won last one) @ Washington (11-34, won last one)

Key Stats

Washington

* 94.07 points per game (21st in the NBA) vs. 101.62 points allowed per game (28th)

* 43.8% FG (22nd) vs. 45.7% FG allowed (22nd)

* 41.78 rpg (19th) vs. 44.89 rebounds allowed (28th)

*18.33 apg (29th) vs. 15.42 TO pg (24th)

Indiana

* 95.5 ppg (17th) vs. 92.82 points allowed (6th)

* 43.2% FG (26th) vs. 43% FG allowed (7th)

* 43.43 rppg (5th) vs. 42.52 rebounds allowed (19th)

* 18.05 appg (30th) vs. 14.27 TO pg (9th)

Position-by-position Matchups

PG-Darren Collison vs. John Wall

SG-Paul George vs. Jordan Crawford

SF-Danny Granger vs. Chris Singleton

PF-David West vs. Trevor Booker

C-Roy Hibbert vs. Nene

Key Reserves

Washington-Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin, Roger Mason Jr.

Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price, Dahntay Jones, George Hill, Leandro Barbosa

Injuries of note

Washington-Rashard Lewis (knee, day-to-day), Andray Blatche (out, conditioning)

Indiana-None

Breakdown:

The Pacers have not seen the Wizards yet this year, but get them twice in seven days, starting tonight. Generally speaking, though, Washington is pretty bad, and doesn’t have a whole lot of strengths to speak of. However, a lot of the team’s early season ineptitude can be traced back to general apathy and immaturity in the lockerroom, much of which can most likely be directly linked to two players: Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee. McGee is no longer on the team, traded last week for a much more mature, upright citizen in Nene Hilario. Blatche has been told, essentially, that he’s too fat and out of shape to contribute at this time, and he’s not welcome back until that rectifies itself. No big shock really. So to say the least, while incredibly shallow and poorly managed in recent years, the Wizards are in a much better place today than they were 7 days ago.

Despite general dysfunction, Washington has loads of talent. John Wall is, of course, a world-class point guard who needs some discipline. If he practiced more and goofed around less, he could take his game to the Chris Paul stratosphere; he’s that talented of a passer (and a much better overall athlete). His jumper still needs work, but then, so does Paul’s if we’re being completely honest. You can’t have it all, and Wall was blessed with some God-given abilities that he needs to hone, and that’s going to come with better coaching. The Wizards’ front-line is now loaded with Swiss Army Knife-types in Nene, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely. All can stuff stat sheets with hustle numbers, and while none are reliable scorers, all are adequate-to-stellar on the defensive end. Nene proved he’s healthy, at least for now, in his debut last night @ NJN, where he put up a 22/10 double-double in the Wizards’ convincing win.

Statistically Washington is much-like the New York Knicks team that recently beat the Pacers in back-to-back contests, so hopefully Indiana won’t sleep on them. Coming off the most brutal 9-game stretch of the season (wherein Indiana went a discouraging 3-6) Indiana must close the season strong in order to contend for a home playoff series, and it starts by beating the beatable teams (just don’t tell Danny Granger to call anyone “beatable…”). Tonight’s game is the first of a back-to-back-to-back for Indiana, followed by one day off, then the Heat at home, two days off, a mid-week back-to-back, one day off, then a road contest @ San Antonio. All told, over the next 10 days the Pacers play seven games, two of them are against title contenders, four against current playoff teams and four on the road. Winning 4-5 of these games is crucial for Indiana to set itself up for success heading into April.

Prediction: Pacers 110, Wizards 93
I rarely predict blowouts, but even considering some individual Wizards’ defensive prowess (as aforementioned), team defense and discipline is still not Washington’s strong suit. Newly-acquired bench scorer Leandro Barbosa and the rest of the Pacers’ trigger happy wings will run roughshod over Wall and Crawford, while Hibbert, West and Hansbrough will enjoy a general size advantage down low over everyone Washington throws at them save Nene, who’s typically good for only about 30 minutes a night anyway.

Fantasy Outlook:

Booker and Singleton have been useful from time to time this year, but they’re too inconsistent to rely on. Same with Jordan Crawford, who can fill it up offensively, but struggles to provide consistent numbers in anything other than points (even his threes, at 1.2 per game, are disappointing). Kevin Seraphin was a sneaky play before the Nene acquisition, as he was starting and putting up double-doubles. With Nene last night Seraphin’s points (12) and blocks (2) weren’t affected, but he only three rebounds in 16 foul-plagued minutes. Also, I wouldn’t put too much into Nene’s big line last night; he’s still only marginally fantasy-relevant, even in a new situation. Wall remains the only Wizard who is universally start-worthy, but you won’t see much consistency out of him until next year at the soonest.

Eventually Frank Vogel will be forced to start George Hill. When that day comes you’ll want to have him. 15/6 lines with multiple threes and decent shooting splits should be expected.

Lucas Klipsch can’t go to the nation’s capital. He’s probably on some list. Follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317

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