Prior to the beginning of the NBA Playoffs, I don’t think any of us expected the Washington Wizards to advance to the semi-finals and possibly be favored over the number one seed. Well, the Indiana Pacers were pushed to seven games by the Atlanta Hawks and the Wizards are heading to Indiana with all the momentum on their side. Game 1 will tip off at 7:00pm EST from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It will be broadcasted on TNT.
- Washington was 1-2 against the Pacers during the regular season, but they beat Indiana at home late in March while never allowing the Pacers to lead. They won the game by 13 points.
- Roy Hibbert‘s struggles in the playoffs have been well documented, but he did bounce back in Game 7 against the Hawks with a solid 13 points and 7 rebounds.
- Lance Stephenson put up 19 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists in Game 7. Unlike Chicago, the Pacers have guards that are willing to mix it up with the bigs down low. John Wall and Bradley Beal are going to have to continue contributing on the boards.
- The Wizards didn’t seem to have much trouble scoring against the Bulls, who were ranked 1st in defensive efficiency during the regular season, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do against the Pacers, who were ranked 2nd.
Key Match Up:
The Pacers obviously haven’t played at the level they’re capable of playing for quite some time, but Paul George has consistently brought it in every game. He averaged about 25 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists while shooting nearly 46% from the field against the Hawks. With that said, he has struggled against the Wizards during the regular season, scoring just 17 points on less than 35% shooting.
Trevor Ariza has been one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, and while Nene was the key reason Washington won their first round match up against the Bulls, Ariza might be the key player in the semi-finals. Like Chicago, the Pacers aren’t always good offensively and much of their scoring will come from George. Ariza has shut down stars in the past and the outcome of the series might be determined by the Ariza/George match up. George has hit shots from the perimeter at a very efficient rate against the Hawks, but that wasn’t the case against Washington during the regular season. George is obviously capable of knocking down tough shots, but I think the Wizards will live with any shot he hits from the outside, as long as it’s contested and doesn’t come in transition. The Wizards, including Ariza, have to keep George out of the paint and force someone else to beat them.