After gaining a 19 point advantage in the second quarter, it looked like the Washington Wizards were going to coast to victory, right? Wrong.
First off, let me get Paul George‘s big performance out of the way before I move on to the Wizards. George has emerged as one of the league’s biggest stars on one of the biggest stages the league has to offer–the NBA Playoffs. He helped ignite the Indiana Pacers’ comeback with 39 total points to go along side 11 rebounds. Whenever the Pacers desperately needed a bucket and Washington would look to pull away, George delivered. He knocked down clutch three after clutch three, including a few and-one baskets late in the game that helped complete Indiana’s comeback. Trevor Ariza has done a pretty good job defensively against George, but once he gets going, he’s obviously really hard to stop. Ariza overplayed defensively multiple times, leading to some easy baskets for George, which allowed him to get into a rhythm.
Prior to George’s explosion late in the game, Washington gained a big lead after Andre Miller, Al Harrington and Drew Gooden checked into the game. Randy Wittman was reluctant to play the ‘AARP unit’ during the series, but it seemed to pay off tonight–at least in the first half. Andre Miller finished the game with a +/- of +18, which was the highest of any Wizard player. He created offense early by looking for his teammates in transition, more specifically Martell Webster and Harrington. Miller finished the game with 7 points and 4 assists. Washington’s reserve bigs were also instrumental in gaining the big advantage, as Harrington and Gooden combined for 21 points off the bench. Gooden was also surprisingly good defensively. With that said, Marcin Gortat played just 21 minutes and was pretty much a nonfactor. Wittman stuck with his bench players, and he’ll undoubtedly get criticized since Washington failed to win Game 4, but I thought the move payed off.
Now, on to the back court.
John Wall, simply put, hasn’t been good against Indiana in the playoffs and that continued tonight. I’ve honestly never seen Wall play with such low confidence than he did tonight. He finished the game with 12 points, 7 assists and 5 turnovers. When he got to the basket, he seemingly always looked to kick the ball out, which didn’t lead to much offense. Washington made just 5 of their 15 three point tries, and Wall should’ve shot the ball a lot more on drives than he did tonight. Wall was a -21 tonight.
Bradley Beal, like Wall, has been pretty inconsistent, but I thought he played well tonight. He finished the game with 20 points on 50% shooting, with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Beal has been a lot more aggressive on drives to the basket than Wall, which has opened up more shots from him on the perimeter. He did botch the final possession by failing to catch the ball, leading to a back-court violation, but overall, I thought he played well.
Washington is now losing 1-3 in the series and it will take something special for them to come back and win the series. Despite the disheartening loss and inability to close the game with such a big lead early on, I’m still very optimistic about this team’s future. Losing tough games like the one tonight will only help Wall and Beal grow from now on.