The Silver Lining for the Pacers after Game 1 Loss

by Manny Randhawa | @MannyRSports

May 2, 2014 | 1:30 a.m.

This one was lost primarily on the boards and behind the 3-point arc.

The numbers were gaudy: The Pacers were outrebounded 53-36 and the Wizards hit 10 of 16 3-point attempts.

But despite the 1-0 series deficit that Indiana finds itself facing after its 102-96 loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, there is a silver lining.

That’s because the Wizards are a team that loves to get out in the open court and run wild with its dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Those two love to push the ball up the floor and keep the tempo high.

On Monday night, they were doing just that in a first quarter during which the Pacers committed five turnovers and allowed Washington to cash in to the tune of 10 fast break points. As a result, Washington had a 28-15 lead after 12 minutes of play.

But then the Pacers started taking care of the basketball. Indiana committed just eight turnovers the rest of the way, and allowed Washington only four fast break points in the remaining 36 minutes.

The score over the final three periods was Pacers 81, Wizards 74. And that was with Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal raining down 3-pointers as if they were Kyle Korver and Mike Scott; and with Drew Gooden pulling down seven offensive rebounds in 18 minutes on the floor.

What a difference limiting turnovers can make.

“Obviously, our slow start put us behind the 8-ball most of the night,” Frank Vogel said after the game. “Playing from behind makes things much more difficult. They just shot the heck out of it, particularly Ariza, 6-for-6 from the 3-point line.”

Paul George echoed Vogel’s lament about falling behind by double digits early, creating an uphill battle for the rest of the night.

“I thought we played a little better as the game went on,” George said. “But just that 13-point hole in the first quarter … it’s tough. I know it’s a long game, three quarters to catch up and get the game back in control. But when you’re playing in the playoffs, it’s tough to go down 13 points.”

The Pacers have been an extremely turnover-prone team all season long, ranking 19th in the league in that category during the regular season. For Indiana to have just eight of them over the final three quarters Monday against a team boasting the eighth-best defensive rating in the regular season is positive sign from an otherwise forgettable night. Especially when turnovers for the Wizards make Wall and Beal’s eyes light up like they're kids in a candy store the way those two can get down the floor for an easy bucket.

Another positive sign was the contribution from the Pacers’ bench, which outscored Washington’s 30-15 (with 12 of the Wizards’ bench points coming from Gooden).

Luis Scola, who didn’t see playing time in Game 6 and 7 of the first round series against Atlanta, scored 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go along with five rebounds and two blocks in 27 minutes. Evan Turner also sat out of Games 6 and 7, but contributed Monday with seven points on 2-of-4 from the floor in 19 minutes.

C.J. Watson was also efficient off the bench, scoring nine points on 3-of-5 shooting in 15 minutes on the floor. Overall, the bench was 13-of-23 from the field with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Indiana has a superior bench on paper in this series, and in order for the Pacers to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, the bench play will need to be solid to take advantage with spurts like they had in the second quarter of Game 1.

With Scola, Turner and Watson in the game to start the second period, the Pacers went on a 16-2 run to take a 31-30 lead. That transpired while Wall was on the bench. Nene was also off the floor for much of the run, a chunk during which the Pacers outscored Washington 9-0.

Wall said after the game that a basic reason for Washington’s inability to get out on the break after the first quarter was that the Pacers started putting the ball in the basket. And in the second quarter, that was thanks in large part to Indiana’s bench.

“They started to make shots,” Wall said. “When they’re making shots, it’s hard to get the ball out into the open court … it’s a game of runs. They’re gonna have their moments when they play the pace they wanna play. But I think we did a great job of withstanding that big run they had in the second quarter and the run they had in the third quarter, when they got it down to 62-68.”

A big reason Washington was able to withstand the Pacers’ runs was that, as Vogel and George said, Indiana was playing from behind nearly the entire contest.

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Pacers made some fundamental corrections – chief among them protecting the basketball on offense to limit Washington’s fast break opportunities – that will be crucial to carry over into the rest of the series, in addition to solid bench play to capitalize on the Wizards’ lack of depth.

Much as they had to do in the grueling first round series with Atlanta, the Pacers will have to make adjustments. Ariza can’t be given the space he had to shoot on Monday. The rebounding must improve. But the foundations of what they need to do to beat the Wizards include elements that Indiana was able to incorporate in Game 1.

Wall knows what the Pacers can do, and expects to see it come Wednesday.

“[I expect] a team that’s gonna come out with a chip on their shoulder,” Wall said. “They’re gonna be very aggressive and try to throw the first punch … we definitely know what the Pacers are all about and what they’re capable of. Tonight it was just a night where we played a little better and we give credit to ourselves.

“But we know what they can come back and do in Game 2.”

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