Well, here we go again.
The Washington Wizards were one of the best road teams in the Eastern Conference during the regular season and they continued to win away from home against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. With that said, the Indiana Pacers haven’t done a great job at taking care of home court, and the Wizards pounced on them early.
Behind Trevor Ariza‘s hot shooting, Washington was able to get a big lead right out of the gate and the Pacers were forced to play catch-up for virtually the entire contest. The Wizards gained a double-digit lead from the start and Ariza knocked down multiple threes in the first quarter. He made all six of his 3-point shots, while finishing the game with 22 points on 7-10 shooting to go along side 6 rebounds. Besides leading the Washington in scoring throughout the majority of the game, he was also spectacular defensively, holding Paul George to just 4-17 shooting from the field. He did a great job at denying George the ball, and when he did get it, he forced him into tough shots from the perimeter. Prior to the beginning of the series, I thought Ariza would be the key to Washington’s success just as Nene was against Chicago, and that was the case tonight.
Washington’s back court was also very solid tonight. John Wall and Bradley Beal are going to have the upper hand against most opposing guards in the NBA and they certainly took advantage of the match ups. John Wall managed the game very well with 13 points, 9 assists and just 1 turnover. He’s done a great job at not forcing the issue in the playoffs, setting up his teammates, all while contributing on the defensive side of the floor. Wall set the tone defensively early on with two chase down blocks, including an emphatic swat on Paul George’s layup. Wall didn’t shoot the ball well, but luckily for Washington, Bradley Beal showed up when the team needed him most. Like most basketball games, the Pacers went on a run late in the game, but they were hushed by Beal’s outside shooting in the fourth quarter. Beal knocked down 2 of his 3 three point shots in the fourth quarter, but he finished the game with a spectacular 25 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals. Needless to say, he was terrific.
Roy Hibbert‘s struggles have been well documented and they continued tonight against Washington. He scored 0 points, but more importantly, he grabbed 0 rebounds. That’s realllllly bad, especially when considering Washington out-rebounded the Pacers by 17 rebounds. Marcin Gortat thoroughly outplayed Hibbert with 12 points and 15 rebounds, while Nene chipped in with 15 of his own points. Both Gortat and Nene were very good, but perhaps the best performance from any big tonight came from Drew Gooden. That’s right. Drew Gooden. Before tonight’s game, Gooden didn’t see much playing time since Trevor Booker was better suited to play against the hard-nosed Bulls, but Randy Wittman opted to add a bit more offense with Gooden on the floor. He scored 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds off the bench, completely outhustling every Pacers big man on the court. Wittman’s in-game adjustments have been very good in the playoffs and he chose to play Gooden over Gortat during crucial parts of the game, which turned out to be a great move by Wittman.
Washington has all the momentum on their side and the Indiana Pacers look dazed. With John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza and Co. leading the crew, the Wizards are playing with a ton of confidence while Indiana hasn’t played good basketball in months.
It’s just one game, but the Wizards have to be feeling good about themselves.