Indiana Pacers (52-20) at Washington Wizards (36-35)
Location: Verizon Center — Washington, D.C.
Tip: 7:00 p.m. ET
Television: Fox Sports Indiana
Line: IND -1.5
Not as much hype will surround the Indiana Pacers tonight when they face the Washington Wizards in the nation’s capital. However, it could just as equally important of a game.
The Wizards, barring an extreme collapse, are heading for the postseason for the first time since 2008. They haven’t won a playoff series since 2005. It is becoming more clear that Washington could finish anywhere from the fifth seed to the seventh seed, making it all the more difficult to try and win a seven-game series.
As for the Pacers, the blue and gold enter political territory riding high. Indy defeated Miami on Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in a game that drew the second-highest television ratings of the year in the NBA. While Indiana escaped with a one-point win, 84-83, it could provide them the confidence needed to finish the regular season strong.
Slowing the Wizards means halting the dangerous one-man typhoon that is John Wall, stated Indiana head coach Frank Vogel in an interview with the Indianapolis Star on Friday.
“It all runs through [Wall], for the most part,” said Vogel. “They’ve got multiple guys that can hurt you because of his passing ability.”
Wall is also more than capable of scoring points in bunches. The University of Kentucky product is averaging 20 points, 8.8 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game this season. He dropped 37 points against Toronto on November 22, his high of the season, and has recorded eight games of 30+ points in 2013-14.
That said, there is no questioning why he is the focal point of any opponent’s defensive game plan.
The Pacers should work to build off their momentum from Wednesday night’s win the Heat by feeding the ball down low early. Getting Roy Hibbert and David West involved is key, as that opens the floor up for the guys on the perimeter.
Lance Stephenson has something to prove after getting ejected in the fourth quarter of the Miami game. Watch for Sir Lance-A-Lot to get in a groove in the first quarter as well.
Prediction: For the first time since joining 8 Points, 9 Seconds, I have regained some of the faith I had in the Indiana Pacers. Their two-month funk might slowly be on its way out. Pacers beat the Wizards tonight, 96-89.