Same Old Song: Pacers Shut Down Wall, Wizards

by Manny Randhawa | @MannyRsports

January 11, 2014 | 12:30 a.m.

The defensive dominance of the Pacers this season has been poured over many a time in analyses of Indiana’s efficiency and effectiveness in thwarting opponents’ scoring strategies. It’s redundant to say that the Pacers have the NBA’s best defense, and that in yet another victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, that defense was on vintage display.

But consider how the Pacers dismantled the Washington Wizards in their 93-66 victory on Friday night.

Washington came into the game averaging 98.5 points per contest. The 66 points Washington mustered against Indiana was not only the lowest scoring output of any Pacers opponent this season, but the lowest scoring output of any team in the NBA this season.

Washington’s leading scorer is John Wall, who came in averaging 19.7 points and 8.7 assists per game, making him one of the league’s premier point guards. He scored 13 points Friday on just 4-of-15 from the field and had only three assists.

Shooting guard Bradley Beal came in averaging 17.7 points per game but was just 6-of-18 from the field Friday. He had three 3-pointers, however, and finished with 17 points. Center Marcin Gortat was averaging 12.5 points coming in, but was only 2-of-8 for four points.

The Wizards, who came in averaging 45 percent shooting as a team, shot 32 percent in this one (26-for-81). Seven of their shot attempts were blocked, eight of their possessions resulted in steals, they were outscored 38-18 in the paint, and they were outrebounded 61-41.

Washington managed just 13 assists as a team. Wall has had 13 or more assists in a game by himself three times this season.

If you follow the Pacers, you’ve heard this song before. But if you’re a Pacers fan, that song doesn’t get old.

The Wizards had it sung to them on Friday night. And while they insist that their 27-point loss was a matter of them not making shots they should’ve made, there was also this glaring statistic staring them in the face: in two games against the Pacers this season, Washington has scored 139 points. That’s 69.5 a game.

“I don’t think there’s anything we should be embarrassed about,” Gortat said. “This is a really good team, a really talented, very deep team. This team was built to win the championship.”

Wall said his assists were down for the simple reason that shots weren’t falling for Washington on this night.

“The biggest thing is that we didn’t make shots,” he said. “I think I did a good job of just moving the ball and sometimes you get games where you don’t get big assists, you get hockey assists and I’m cool with that. We just didn’t make shots. If we made shots I think we could have fought hard and been in the game a little bit longer.”

There may have been something else to Wall’s difficulties, however. Before the game, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel showed the team video of Wall’s 37-point outburst against Indiana in Washington last April 6th. The Pacers responded accordingly.

“[Vogel] showed the video of John last year, in D.C., where he went off for 30-something on us that night,” Paul George said. “You never want to let a guy get hot like that.”

Wall did nothing of the sort Friday.

The man tasked with guarding him said the video caused him to focus on transition defense as he approached this game, something the Pacers managed well (though not as well as allowing zero fast break points to Washington in their Nov. 29 meeting), allowing the Wizards 14 fast break points.

“When you see a guy scoring so much on the break, I think that’s what you go into the game thinking about,” George Hill said. “The focus is on transition defense, and I felt like for the most part today we stopped that. [Wall] got a couple opportunities in the break, but more than that, we tried to slow that down.”

“It’s huge for us,” David West said of shutting down Wall. “We still remember the game he had against us last year in Washington, where he just beat us by himself. We know he’s capable of having huge, huge nights. George has been making a concerted effort to stay engaged, really fight these guards. He did well tonight.”

Despite his insistence that Washington simply missed too many shots, Wall shook his head as he was asked if there was another defensive team out there like Indiana, or whether this team was in an echelon all its own.

“I think you could kind of compare the Heat,” he replied. “But I don’t think too many teams have the presence of Roy Hibbert back there that does a great job of just jumping straight up and contesting shots without fouling.”

C.J. Watson, who gave Indiana a big lift with 16 points off the bench Friday, was responsible for the whereabouts of Wall when he subbed-in for Hill. He said the key was to direct Wall exactly where he didn’t want to go: toward the Pacers’ bigs.

“[The key was to] just try to funnel him to our bigs, and make him make tough two’s. When you’ve got to go against Ian [Mahinmi] and Roy back there, it’s tough to make shots against them.”

The song gets sung virtually night after night, particularly at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Pacers are now 18-1. The box score is the sheet music, detailing every note, with Vogel as the defensive-minded maestro.

When you get a song stuck in your head, you just hope it’s one you like. For the Pacers, they could listen to this one all day, every day.

Because that’s the type of beat that gets you to where you want to be in June.

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