3 in a row.
That’s what this entire season has come down to. The Washington Wizards need to play 144 straight minutes of smart, team basketball. The keys to doing so, at least for Game 5 tonight, are as follows.
- Marcin Gortat Needs to Rebound
What made Gortat so integral in the Chicago Bulls series was his ability to tip the ball back out on the offensive boards. This ensured that the Wizards would have multiple scoring chances on the same possession whilst also limiting the amount of Bulls’ shots. In Game 4, Gortat finished with 3 rebounds in 21 minutes, which was one of the main reasons the Wizards lost. The Nene, Gortat front court is imperative because without it David West and Roy Hibbert will dominate the paint. Gortat has been a main factor this season to the Wizards’ success. Getting him in the trade with Phoenix was a great move by the Wizards and has paid off immensely but this game is one where Gortat will have to further prove his worth in Washington.
- Nene Needs to Make His Jump-Shots
When Nene scores, the Wizards offense performs so much better due to spacing. Not only does Nene’s jump-shot keep Hibbert away from the rim to get rebounds, but it allows Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza more room to attack the paint from the wings. Furthermore, John Wall can’t station himself at the top of the three-point line but instead has to move which allows him to get more into the offense. Nene was extremely confident in his shot against Joakim Noah, but it seems that he has shied away from it against the Pacers. In order for the Wizards to win, Nene will have to be able to make his shot from the top of the key.
- The AARP Lineup
Coined by Randy Wittman himself, the AARP lineup is when Drew Gooden, Al Harrington and Andre Miller are on the court, due to their ages being 32, 34 and 38 respectively. This grouping usually plays together at the start of the second quarter to give some of the starters a rest. Especially in Game 4, this lineup poses a lot of matchup problems to the Pacers. Andre Miller’s post game has been one that he has relied on his whole career and he has the ability to post any of the Pacers’ smaller guards up. Even though Al Harrington no longer has the first step and quickness that he used to rely on, his intensity helps the Wizards thrive. Also, Harrington never seems to be afraid of the moment. He will always attack the basket no matter who’s guarding him. Finally, Drew Gooden’s tenacity and rebounding expertise in integral for the Wizards. Gooden is one of the few players on Washington who can box out Roy Hibbert routinely. This lineup helped the Wizards get the 19 point lead in Game 4 and, when playing well, is a matchup nightmare for the Pacers.
- Three-Point Shooting
The Wizards are at their best when their outside shots are falling. This is evident in Game 1 where the Wizards controlled the game at the tip, due to hot shooting by Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal. John Wall’s shot hasn’t been falling this series but his ability to hit the open shooter is still alive. The past few games, the Wizards have shot poorly from behind the arc. Making these shots don’t allow the Pacers to get fast-breaks and allow the Wizards to get back on defense. If the Wizards make their threes tonight, they’ll have a huge advantage over the Pacers.
- John Wall
I wrote about this yesterday but it needs to be repeated. John Wall’s leadership is the key for the Wizards to win this series. Wall needs to be able to make his shots tonight, however if they’re not falling he can’t become passive. He has to attack the rim to draw fouls on Indiana’s big men. A lot is on his shoulders, however he’s a superstar and the best player on each team needs to carry a bit more of the burden. John Wall has had a great season, but in order for it to be extremely memorable he has to step up for the Wizards.