Playoffs is coming. The Pacers are in a world of trouble, it appears, but they did enough good work early in the season to guarantee themselves a top two seed and home-court advantage for at least the first two rounds of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Heck, they even still have a shot at first place. (Chuckle, chuckle.)
Much of the discussion surrounding whether Indiana should want the No. 1 or No. 2 seed has centered around the Bulls and the Nets, whom most fans seem to think the Pacers should try to avoid in round two. That’s all well and good, but what about the first round?
At this point, there might not be a team in the East playoffs that doesn’t pose a threat to Indiana advancing. Unfortunately, we still have to wait until next week to find out who they will play. But there are four possible opponents, so we took the liberty to break down each just for you, loving reader.
Here are the four potential foes Indiana will face in the first round.
Washington Wizards (41-38) – 6th Place
by Ben Gibson
Offensive Four Factors
eFG%: 50.3% (14th)
ORB%: 25.2% (19th)
TO%: 13.6% (12th)
FT/FGA: 0.181 (30th)
Defensive Four Factors
eFG%: 50.5% (16th)
DRB%: 75.7% (7th)
TO%: 14.9 (2nd)
FT/FGA: 0.220 (15th),
On the verge of their first winning season since 2007-08, the Washington Wizards have maintained the streak of only one (or none) of the city’s winter teams making the playoffs. The Wizards have punched their ticket into the post season thanks to the development of young guns John Wall and Bradley Beal. Trevor Ariza and other vets have stepped up as well including the recent additon of Drew Gooden, who has only played 20 games since February 26 but is posting a PER of 18.9 in his 18.6 minutes per game.
According to Rant Sports’ Brain Skinnell, Washington’s season has been about staying alive and pushing through. ”I think this season has been all about survival. They’ve gone through a number of injuries but have persevered. They’ve grown closer as a team and have given this town basketball fever. Survival and perseverance.”
It wasn’t too long ago that people we’re talking about another reboot for the Wizards and now things are, finally, turning around after the sour ending to the Gilbert Arenas’ era and the sloooow upswing of promise that arrived with Wall. They probably aren’t going to make a lot of noise in the postseason, but they’re playing with house money and that could make them interesting.
The Wizards’ top 5-man unit is earning a +5.8 per a game since the All-Star break, the league’s 12th best and has been their most used line up since then.
A blessing and a curse is Washington’s youth. Again, back to Skinnell: “Their biggest weakness is their youth. They fall asleep easily, and have had trouble winning games they should/need to win. That kinda of thing comes from youth.” This team is going to make mistakes because of that. And that’s part of the growth process. Just look back on the the last three postseasons for the Pacers, and you can see how the evolution of a team is almost never a quick process.
Nene’s health needs to be monitored coming into the postseason. He has the Wiz’s highest usage rate since the All-Star break and posts Washington’s best defensive rating in that time with a 91.9. He’s one of the Wizards’ most effective players but he’s coming off injury.
Head to Head With Pacers: Indiana 2, Washington 1
The Pacers twice mauled the Wizards in Indiana as home-court advantage held sway, beating the Wizards by a margin of +47 in the two wins. The only sour news on the winning side after the first win, which took the Pacers to a franchise best 15-1 start to the season, was Lance Stephenson coming up 3 points shy of a triple double. The second game was just a brutal beating, with Indiana winning by 27 after holding Washington to just 29 points in the second half.
The Wizards did get some revenge recently, however, during Indiana’s ongoing trip to rock bottom. The Pacers entered the nation’s capital feeling good after beating the Heat two days earlier, but they didn’t bring their game with them as Wall carved them up for 20 points and 8 assists.
Are they are threat to Indiana?
Not really. Indiana’s issues seem mostly self-inflicted as of late. The Wizards youth, particularly their two best players, will be a burden this year, but the duo of Beal and Wall should be interesting to follow in the years to come. The Wizards haven’t played well even in the win against Indiana as they’re most used lineup (Ariza, Beal, Booker, Gortat, and Wall) had -4 +/- against the Pacers. Watch when Gooden and Al Harrington hit the floor against Indiana as they and Martell Webster had the most success against the Pacers last time around.