After escaping the eighth seeded Hawks, the lone sub-.500 team in the postseason, the sliding Pacers could finally take a breath. Seven games consisting of close outs to the three-point line (44 times in Game 7) and necessary road wins, Indiana had the opportunity to face a young Washington team that they match up much better against opposed to the everyone-on-the-floor-can-shoot Hawks. The Pacers could play big boy ball, and it looked like they had regained confidence in themselves.
The Pacers hosted yet another Gold Out in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, hoping to bring the fans a fun game to watch just like they did in Game 7 of the first round series, and just like they did for the first three months of the season. It got close at times, it was blowout-esque at times. The game was up and down, both teams looked good, but for the most part, it was just Washington.
From the start, Washington showed off their 3-point shooting ability — well, Trevor Ariza did — getting off to an 8-0 start from two Ariza triples and a transition lay-in from the Polish Hammer, aka, Marcin Gortat.
Indiana did what they could throughout this game, but Washington’s “Big 3″ of Ariza, John Wall, and Bradley Beal were too much for the Pacers defense. Wall did struggle, going shooting 4-for-14 from the field, but his supersonic speed and explosiveness caught Indiana off guard on many occasions. Wall’s ability to drive and kick to an outside shooter like Beal or Ariza is what he really does best. This helped him pile up 9 assists to go along with his 13 points.
As for Ariza, well, he was looking like Atlanta’s Mike Scott, who gave Indiana plenty of problems from downtown in the first round. The former NBA champion was a perfect 6-for-6 from three-point range, and 7-for-10 from the field, on the way to a 22-point performance.
Beal also had something going from behind the arc, hitting on 3-of-5 attempts. Beal ended the game with 25 points, 7 assists, and 7 boards. He may be in only his second playoff series, but has proven thus far losing is not an option.
Washington as a team shot 41.7% from the field, which is better than it may sound seeing as Indiana held Atlanta’s shooting percentage down in the 30s in the first round all but two games. The real crippling numbers is Washington’s efficient 10-for-16 (62.5%) shooting from deep.
Sometimes they say the best defense is a good offense. The Pacers traditionally have used a good defense to make up for their bad offense, and although it wasn’t bad, it was bad enough to let the Wizards shoot 62.5% from deep. Gortat shot 4-for-12, Nene was 6-for-16, Beal was 8-for-18. Through in Wall, and four of the five starters, other than Ariza, really had a tough time shooting efficiently, yet they still managed to pump out some pretty good scoring numbers.
By the end, the Pacers’ offense didn’t look much worse than the Wizards’, shooting 40.7% overall and 47.1% from 3-point range. But 4 of those triples were desperation heaves in the final 40.6 seconds after the game was pretty much out of reach. Make no mistake: Indiana struggled to score for much of the night, and the early hole it put itself in was too much to overcome. Even a 16-2 run in the second quarter couldn’t do anything but delay the inevitable; that surge overcame a 13-point Wizards’ lead after the first, but an ensuing collapse ensured that Washington was agains ahead by 13 at halftime.
Defense is the Pacers bread and butter, so defending the perimeter is necessary in order to pull this series out. If Indiana can limit Washington’s 3-point makes and force a few more turnovers in the games to come, they can win in Game 2 to get back into the series.
Ultimately, Washington played like they wanted it more in Game 1.
Whether Indiana was tired or not, you have to take advantage of your home court and ignite your home crowd to push you through fatigue. The Pacers dropped two of their four home games in the first round and still pulled through, however, so there is still hope. But beating the Wizards presents a much taller task than the Hawks could.
Winning Game 2 and snagging at least one game in the nation’s capital will be required for Indiana to stay in this series, as every loss going forward will just makes it tougher and tougher to prevent a disappointing ending to this season, a reality that feels increasingly inevitable by the day.
Tags: Indiana Pacers