Associated Press

Wizards At Pacers Preview (1/2/13)


After dropping their first home game of the New Year, the Washington Wizards have a chance to pick up just their second road victory of the season tonight against the Danny Granger-less, Indiana Pacers

Key Match Up

Despite the Wizards’ recent struggles, Emeka Okafor is seemingly the only player which shows up to play every night. Averaging close to 12 points and 13 rebounds during the past five games, Okafor has contributed much more as of late than he had at the beginning of the season. He’s not only helping them on the offensive side of the floor, but by averaging over two blocks per game in the last five meetings, Okafor has really lived up to his ‘defensive anchor’ label which was put on by his teammates. One thing that’s surprised me about Okafor, is his unique ability to tip the ball back to the guards after a missed shot. Even though ‘Mek’ isn’t able to grab the basketball, he’s aware enough to tip it back, allowing the Wizards to gain another possession. With the way Washington’s offense has been going, they’ll need every possession they could get.

Unlike Okafor, Indiana big man Roy Hibbert, has really struggled this season. Prior to the start of the season, people doubted Roy Hibbert’s ability to live up to his new max contract he had received during the off season. The former all-star’s production has dipped considerably this season, as he’s averaging just over 9 points and 8 rebounds per game. Above all, Hibbert is shooting a dismal 39 percent from the floor. It should be noted that players which can’t seem to turn it around, seem to instantly turn it around against the Wizards.

Other Notes/Links

Prediction

Although the Pacers aren’t a great offensive team (they’re ranked 28th in offensive efficiency), they are a top three team in defensive efficiency. Having guys like Hibbert who is averaging close to 3 blocks per game this season, and Paul George who uses his length to disrupt offense, has really helped Indiana on the defensive end of the floor. David West, who isn’t considered a top tier defender, uses his ‘bruising style’ of play to irritate the opposing player. Indiana is filled with players who are known for hustling and scrapping on defense. Tyler and Ben Hansbrough are the epitome of ‘scrappiness’.

Bradley Beal had arguably the best game of his young career against the Dallas Mavericks last night. Despite the losing effort, Beal was knocking down the majority of his shots, including three pointers. It’s nice to see Beal shoot the ball with confidence, and finally breathe a sigh of relief as he sees the ball enter the basket. After the Wizards drafted Beal third overall, I expected him to play with a lot more confidence than he did right out of the gate. I hope yesterday’s game helps propel Beal’s fragile confidence.

The Pacers are the fifth best rebounding team in the NBA. Okafor, Nene, as well as the rest of the team needs to do a better job of ‘gang rebounding’ against the Pacers tonight. Washington is a bit undersized tonight as they go up against 7’2 Roy Hibbert, and a plethora of their other big men. Having Beal, Webster, and even Garrett Temple help contribute on the boards tonight would definitely increase their chances of winning.

Washington will need to do a whole lot of things right in order to leave The Hoosier State with a victory. With that said, I think Washington will get yet another moral victory tonight.

Let’s hope I’m wrong. Our patience with this team seems to be slipping more and more with every loss.