After losing four of their last five games, the Washington Wizards desperately needed to get back on track and it didn’t get any easier tonight against the East’s best Indiana Pacers. Well, the Wizards were up for the challenge and thoroughly outplayed Indiana throughout the entire game and eventually went on to cruise to victory, 91-78.
Washington hasn’t been very good defensively as of late, but that definitely wasn’t the case tonight. John Wall set the tone early with a steal leading to a big dunk in transition right out of the gate. Washington seemed a lot more energized tonight and I credit Wall for continuously putting pressure on the guards. Trevor Ariza struggled with his shooting tonight, knocking down just 2 of his 12 attempts, but he was absolutely fantastic on the defensive side of the floor. He held Paul George to 19 points on 6-22 shooting, making it very difficult for him to get any easy shots from the perimeter. Ariza ran George off the three point line, and when he did get to the basket, he was met by Marcin Gortat at the rim. Gortat blocked two shots tonight, but he altered many more. The Polish Hammer scored 17 points to go along side 12 rebounds, while Roy Hibbert scored just 8 points and grabbed 2 rebounds on the opposing side. Gortat hasn’t gotten enough credit for his improved defense this season and he made it very tough for the Pacers to get any easy baskets inside. Washington played terrific defense for the entire 48 minutes and they need to continue playing like that for the rest of the season. Tonight might’ve been their most complete defensive game of the season, especially since the Pacers didn’t lead once in the entire game.
John Wall led the way for the Wizards, scoring 20 points and dishing out 8 assists. Bradley Beal was dreadful tonight, as he scored just 7 points on 13 shot attempts, so Wall didn’t get much help from his back court mate. No one really shot the ball particularly well tonight, but I thought Wall did a great job of finding his teammates open, especially Marcin Gortat off the pick and roll. Wall pushed the ball every chance he got and the Pacers had trouble getting back on defense. When Wall plays defense like he did tonight, his up-and-down shooting is masked by his effort and it’s important for him to continue playing that way for the remainder of the season.
Washington’s bench was also terrific tonight. Andre Miller scored 4 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, but he really helped lead the bench, running the offense as efficiently as possible. Miller’s ability to run the team can’t be understated. The bench has benefited from Miller’s presence and it was seen in Martell Webster’s performance tonight. Webster scored 11 points while hitting 3 of his 6 three point attempts. Al Harrington also provided a much needed scoring spark off the bench, putting up 12 points against his former team.
The Wizards really needed this win tonight and it’ll definitely do a lot for their confidence. Although the Pacers haven’t been playing good basketball as of late, they were coming off a win over the Miami Heat and they’re still considered legitimate championship contenders. Washington will be back at it tomorrow night against the Atlanta Hawks and they must play with the same defensive intensity as they did tonight.