Pacers Impose Their Pace on Wizards to Take Game 3
May 9, 2014
Sure, the Pacers got help in taking their first series lead of the postseason with an 85-63 win over the Washington Wizards in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Friday night at the Verizon Center.
Related: Game 3 Recap
After all, when your opponent shoots 33 percent from the field and leaves 11 points at the free throw line, the victory might as well come giftwrapped along with a Hallmark card.
But for Indiana, a key component of this win, which put it up two games to one in the best-of-seven series, was also a hallmark of the vintage Pacers of old – if you consider three months ago “old:” the pace at which the game was played.
The Wizards, and particularly the dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, love to run and play high-tempo basketball. You can’t blink when Wall is in the open court or you might miss how he actually scores the bucket – or drops a dime for a teammate to do the honors.
So on Friday, the Pacers made it a point to make pace a priority, and it bore fruit. “Good pace, good pace!” Paul George could be heard telling his teammates during the game.
The contest was ugly; the two teams combined to set a new NBA playoff record for fewest points scored in the first half – 67 (Indiana led 34-33 at intermission). Both teams spent the majority of the game shooting at or below 35 percent. The quality of offense for both squads was atrocious, and yet, this was to Indiana’s advantage.
“It’s fine,” David West responded when asked about the ugliness of the game. “ … We saw the way the game was going, and we were like, we’re just gonna keep grinding, grinding, grinding … they can play up-tempo, but when we can get quality shots, miss or make, it really works to our advantage. It slows the game down.”
The Pacers can beat you in an ugly game. And they "uglied" Washington to death in Game 3. It’s not as if the Pacers began to light up the scoreboard as the game wore on, though they did improve from the field enough to finish at a 42 percent clip from the floor when all was said and done.
But what Indiana did was make Game 3 a slow, half-court affair that Washington was unable to transform into something more comfortable because the Pacers continued their recent trend of taking care of the basketball. Indiana turned the ball over 10 times (now averaging 10 turnovers per game in this series after averaging a 19th-ranked 15 per game during the regular season), keeping a lid on the Wizards’ lethal transition attack.
And they managed this despite facing a team that forced turnovers on a second-ranked 15 percent of all opponents’ possessions during the regular season. The Pacers, meanwhile, were 26th in the NBA in percentage of possessions on which they turned it over, giving it away 14.3 percent of the time.
“We tried to take our time and try to make smart plays and read the defense and limit them on the fast break,” Roy Hibbert said.
Limiting turnovers against a team like the Wizards translates into fewer fast break opportunities, which really cramps Washington’s style. Four of the Wizards’ eight fast break points in the game Friday came from Wall in the third quarter, who took it upon himself to push the ball down the floor, but only after his team fell behind by double digits.
West said that an important element of ensuring the Wizards weren’t able to run wild in Game 3 was the type of shots the Pacers were getting on offense, whether they found the bottom of the net or not.
“I think our defense being set has a lot to do with the types of shots we’re getting at the offensive end, miss or make,” West said. “If we’re not shooting challenged, bad shots and allowing for leak-outs and them being able to get out on the break, that’s the best solution for our defense.”
The lesson for the Wizards out of all this?
“Ugly” is the Pacers’ middle name, and the name of the game for Indiana is pace.
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The Pacers host the Wizards in Game 5 of the Eastern Conf. Semifinals on May 13