In Game 1, the biggest stories for Washington were the sharpshooting of Trevor Ariza and the late-game poise of Bradley Beal. Each played remarkably, scoring 22 and 25 points, respectively, while hitting a combined 9-of-11 shots from behind the arc.
Beal, in particular, looked like a dynamic scorer who will be a star in this league very soon. Zach Harper of CBS Sports penned a great little piece discussing the 20-year-old’s great play last night and his overall development in this league.
[Washington's] attack is brilliant really. John Wall puts the pressure on the defense and breaks them down. Trevor Ariza hits shots early and stretches the floor. Nene and Marcin Gortat provide the muscle inside and some solid work around the rim. And Beal is left out there, reading everything that goes on and being the offensive Trojan horse for Washington. He’s waiting to attack, to show off that perfect shooting form when the defense seems least prepared to handle his onslaught.
It’s a feel for the game that’s quite astute but still in development. That’s a terrifying thought for the rest of the league. What happens if he catches up to Wall’s development? Is there any doubt in the NBA this is quickly becoming the best backcourt in the NBA, if not knocking on the door already? His 25-point, 7-rebound, 7-assist, five-steal performance in the Game 1 victory over the Pacers was the perfect example of how stealthy his game can be.
Beal scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter when the Pacers had begun to keep the gap close and were looking to pounce for one more run to pull them even or take the lead. With 10:36 left in the fourth, Indiana cut the deficit to eight points. Beal was then responsible for the next 12 points, scoring 10 of them and assisting on the other bucket.
All hail Beal, indeed.
He was astounding beyond his years last night, and is arguably the individual most responsible for putting the Pacers into an 0-1 hole at home — something that will be much harder to dig their way out of against the Wizards than it was against the Hawks.
But there’s a key sentence in Harper’s piece that highlights just how good this whole perimeter trio is for D.C.: “What happens if he catches up to Wall’s development?”
John is already an absolute beast. He didn’t light up the scoreboard last night, but he finished with 9 assists — most beautifully of all, the one in the GIF atop this page (via @cjzero) — and controlled the offense with a veteran savvy. He did this in his sixth career playoff game.
Sure, he missed 10-of-14 shots, and was only twice able to get off an attempt in the paint, but he won’t continue to be inaccurate all series. He isn’t exactly Dirk Nowitzki or David West from the midrange, but he can be deadly when he gets hot from his pet spot around the right elbow, a place he shoots from more than anyone in the league, according to Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland.
John Wall’s 2013-14 Midrange Shot Chart
Even if he does keep missing, he remains an athletic freak who can penetrate and dish to teammates all over the court, like we saw last night.
And he also uses this athleticism to disrupt things in other ways.
Paul George saw Wall’s explosion first hand while dancing the Nae Nae along Wall during the dunk contest at the All-Star break, and he got the chance to witness it again up close last night.
Wall didn’t score much, but he used his speed, quickness, and ridiculous handle to finish with the aforementioned 9 dimes plus 5 boards and 2 blocks — including this hatchet job out of a horror movie he unleashed on George in transition (see below). Doing that to your former dance partner just aint right, John.
The Pacers did a good job of controlling Wall in Game 1. But the other two perimeter players went off in his place, and there is no way Wall keeps missing more than 70% of his shots.
(GIF via @SBNationGif)