The Wizards are going to need to do some major regrouping after being trounced by the Indiana Pacers last night. There’s no way that they can employ the same strategy that they used throughout the first three games at this point. Things need to be done far differently than they were before if they want a chance to steal homecourt advantage once again and buy themselves a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Wizards only scored 69.8 points per 100 possessions. The Indiana Pacers looked like every bit of the much vaunted defense from before the All-Star break. The Wizards worst fear has been realized–the Pacers are back. They’re not taking any prisoners and they’re out for blood. Last night’s game reminded us of the 93-66 trouncing that the Pacers delivered on the Wizards early in the season.
They don’t pose the same matchup issue that the Atlanta Hawks did by spreading the floor at all five positions. They aren’t pushing the ball in transition and creating semi-transition opportunities that they’re able to exploit. Instead, John Wall is walking the ball up the floor and they’re dumping the ball down in the post or taking a midrange jumper off of a dribble handoff.
But that wasn’t all. The Pacers actually went far under every screen and forced the Wizards into midrange jump shots. The Wizards took the worst possible shots they could from the midrange. They shot 5-25 from that area of the floor but kept trying to milk it even though that’s what the Pacers were feeding them.
Notice how far George goes under the screen. The Pacers did little things like that to muck up spacing all night. The Wizards couldn’t get to the rim at all. They shot a good percentage on shots at the rim, but they only had 19 shots there on the night. And they weren’t able to get things going from three because of Indiana’s strong ability to close out on the ball.
Beal isn’t able to turn the corner against David West and is forced to kick the ball back to Nene. Once Nene gets the ball, there is realy nowhere to go. The Pacers aren’t respecting the Wizards as a shooting team, and they need to make them pay.
Just take a look at how far George Hill is sagging on John Wall in the same screenshot. Wall was a 36% shooter from deep during the regular season but he hasn’t had the same success in the playoffs. Bradley Beal had a chance to take that three with Paul George going way under the screen on him, but instead he didn’t want to settle for the three and instead created a long two.
Indiana knows that the Wizards will take these jump shots if they’re offered to them. They aren’t going to overextend themselves to defend the shots that the Wizards aren’t normally taking. The same thing happens in the screenshot below.
Wall is wide open on the weakside but needs to make himself available for an easy out pass to Gortat. George Hill is able to cheat over and force Gortat into a travel and that results in a dead ball turnover for the Wizards.
But the Wizards shouldn’t be dumping the ball down into the post in this series, anyway. They’re going up against two of the strongest front court defenders in the league in Roy Hibbert and David West. They need to focus on freeing up the outside attack and creating space for their guard tandem to get into the paint and draw fouls. If they can do that, they’ll have a much better shot at winning the series.
How do they do that? They need to attack in transition. In the first quarter when the Wizards jumped out to a 15-10 lead, a lot of their attack was focused on transition.If there is one advantage that the Wizards have over this Pacers team it’s speed and shooting. Where do they spread the ball out the most? In the transition attack. John Wall in the open floor running with Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza or Martell Webster frees up a lot of things.
It gives Wall the opportunity to attack and it gives those guys the opportunity to pull guys away from the rim and create mismatches with who they pick up in transition. That creates semi-transition opportunity for Washington and that’s how the Atlanta Hawks took care of the Pacers. They caused a bunch of cross matchups and were able to exploit them. The Wizards need to do that same thing–an example is seen in the possession below.
The Pacers defense is so focused on getting back and preventing an easy look at the rim that they forget to pick up Washington’s shooters in Beal and Ariza on the outside. Paul George is down in the paint and outside of the action. That leaves George Hill and Lance Stephenson to guard Wall, Beal and Ariza on the outside. If Washington can get more opportunity like this, they’ll be competitive in game 4. They were able to do things like that in game 1 and that’s how they pulled so far ahead and eventually won.
The Wizards have to force live-ball turnovers against the Pacers. If that means fronting and doubling the post–especially against Roy Hibbert–then so be it. They need to scramble this defense out and force them to think instead of just letting them react.
The Wizards should also use more side to side movement to jar the defense loose instead of running high screens through the middle and post ups. The closer they initiate their offense to the rim with a good ball handler, the better off they are. They need to force Roy Hibbert to come away from the rim. That means that they’ll need to screen a bit closer to the rim than normal.
That also means that they’ll be able to force an overplay by the defense. Side screens and snug screens force the defense to help the rim protecting big out a bit more. They also need to utilize brush screens a bit more to get some separation for their guards. That will enable easy penetration from the side of the floor and force a defensive collapse. That’s how the Wizards created this play here.
The Wizards got a bit creative with some misdirection here. While Ariza screened Bradley Beal to free him up for a handoff, John Wall was on the other side of the floor being screened by Marcin Gortat. George Hill is distracted by the action with Beal and doesn’t want to allow him to turn the corner.
This makes attacking the Pacers defense so much easier because of the side-to-side action that it generates. When attacking from the middle, the Pacers were able to blow up everything that John Wall did. He couldn’t figure out how to get to the basket and George Hill was able to strip him numerous times when he tried to dribble back to the middle.
It was a frustrating night for him, but with a lack of spacing and no real movement on the outside, the Pacers were able to easily funnel him to spots that they wanted him to go to. He wasn’t settling for jump shots like he did in game two, but because they couldn’t get the defense jarred lose it didn’t really matter. The results were even worse.
The Wizards best bet is to use side-to-side action against this team in halfcourt, but again, the transition game will really go a long way for them. In game 4, if Randy Wittman adjusts well, we’ll see some more of the positive actions discussed above. If he doesn’t? Well, it was a fun run while it lasted.