#WizPacers Second Round Series PreviewPosted on May 05, 2014 by Jeremy Hyman
#WizPacers Series Preview
WashingtonWizards.com editors Jacob Raim and Jeremy Hyman break down the #WizPacers second round matchup.
The Pacers won the season series, 2-1.
November 29th: Wizards 73 - Pacers 93
The Wizards fell to the Indiana Pacers 93-73 on November 29th in Indiana. Marcin Gortat led the Wizards with 17 points and 10 boards, while Trevor Ariza added 14 points. Paul George led the Pacers with 23 points.
January 10th: Pacers 93 - Wizards 66
The Wizards fell to the Indiana Pacers 93-66 on January 10th in Indiana. Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 17 points. David West led the Pacers with 20 points.
March 28th: Pacers 78 - Wizards 91
The Wizards defeated the Indiana Pacers 91-78 on March 28th at Verizon Center. John Wall led the Wizards with 20 points and eight assists. Marcin Gortat scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Paul George led Indiana with 19 points.
Tale of the Tape (Playoff Ranks)
Wall, Beal, Ariza, Webster, Miller, Temple, Porter
Hill, Stephenson, George, Watson, Turner, Sloan, Butler
Pace of play. Just like in the Chicago series, pace of play will be the most important aspect of this series with the Pacers. Other than the decisive Game 5 (which the Wizards still won), all of the games with the Bulls were played at the Wizards pace. The games were played in the high 90's - 100's and more importantly than total points, the games had a quick pace to them and the guards were constantly pushing the ball up the court. The Wizards did a good job of that against Chicago and will look to do the same against another team that likes to slow down and play a half-court style game.
In a league filled with elite level point guards, this will be another series the Wizards have a clear edge at the point guard spot. Not taking anything away from George Hill, who is no slouch and can certainly play, but it's safe to say he won't be making any all-star games in the near future. He's a good point guard, but while the league is littered with star point guards, the Wizards will once again face a team lacking that top tier guard. This will be another chance for John Wall to show the national audience just what he's capable of doing. In the series with the Bulls, he played at a high level and even though he shot just 36%, he had just 12 turnovers in five games compared to his 34 assists. Against a good defensive team like Indiana, limiting turnovers will be another key for Wall and the Wizards.
The matchup that may be the most fun to watch will be Bradley Beal and Lance Stephenson. Beal is breaking out and starting to open some of the more casual fans' eyes as they finally get to see how good he can be. He proved to be the best player on the court at times in round one and hit clutch shot after clutch shot when the Wizards needed him most. He did most of that against a very good defender in Jimmy Butler, so the matchup with Stephenson won't be a whole lot different. Stephenson was the Pacers second leading scorer in the Pacers first round series with Atlanta and also averaged almost nine boards per game. He's turned into a do everything guard, and can lead his team in any category on any given night. He brings a certain swag to his game that stems from his upbringing in New York and certainly has that city toughness to his game. Beal told reporters after Sunday's practice that he can't let Stephenson get in his head with his antics, so this one should be intriguing to watch.
Out on the wings, what may be the key to the series will be the Wizards shutting down Paul George. And that pretty much comes down to Trevor Ariza, who will spend a majority of the series guarding the all-star swingman. Ariza did a great job of making things difficult for George in the three regular season games, and will need to continue to be the lockdown defender he's capable of being in this series. Ariza provides some offensive firepower as well, which sometimes is overlooked because of his defense, but let's not forget that he led the team with 30 points in a Game 4 win over the Bulls. George will get his shots and likely get his points, the key will be to make him take a lot of shots and make him take a lot of difficult shots, so we'll see if TA can take on the challenge.
Off the bench, the Wizards will use Andre Miller to spell Wall for about 10 minutes per game while Martell Webster will log about 18 if Randy Wittman sticks to his rotation from the first round. They can both play big roles in that second unit as Miller really brings a veteran presence that can't go unnoticed as the Wiz get deeper into the playoffs, while Webster will be another guy to knock down perimeter shots against a Pacers team that can struggle defending the 3-point shot. The Pacers will use C.J. Watson in a reserve role and he's a guy who can be very dangerous from the perimeter. He shot 45% in the first round from back there and can sometimes give the Pacers a spark off the bench. And even though he struggled, Evan Turner is still a talent and could turn it on to play some big minutes in this series off the Pacers' bench.
Nene, Gortat, Booker, Gooden, Harrington, Seraphin
West, Hibbert, Mahinmi, Scola, Hill, Copeland, Bynum, Allen
The Pacers front court starts with Roy Hibbert and David West, and when they are on, they play the vast majority of the minutes. West really only sits when in foul trouble, as he played 40 or minutes in the final three games of the series. While West was a consistent presence in the paint for the Pacers during the regular season, he was inconsistent in round one against Atlanta. Four times he had 16 or more points, but three times he scored under 10. West is a load in the paint, the type of player that can wear down a frontline over the course of a series. Not only that, but he has range out to the three point line. He can pick and pop, or play with his back to the bucket. Like Nene for Washington, West is also critical in facilitating for Indiana. The Pacers like to get West the ball in the low post to collapse the defense and let him find open shooters and cutters. That resulted in him averaging about five assists a game in the first round. The Pacers offense, which has had well noted struggles, is at its best when West is creating, as well as being an option to score. He could very well be the key to series for Indiana, as their offense was over 12 points better when he was on the floor than off, and over 14 points better defensively.
During the first round, West matched up with Millsap, a skilled scorer but not the banger in the paint that Nene is. This is going to be a very physical matchup, with both guys doing their best to try to prevent the other from controlling the series from the blocks. Both guys want to create open looks for their respective teams' shooters, and both guys can destroy you either from the midrange or in the blocks. Whoever wins this matchup could go a long way in determining who gets this series.
Next to West in the starting lineup will be Roy Hibbert, who is currently a big mystery for the Pacers. Several months ago, Hibbert was an all-star, and considered the elite defensive big man in all of basketball. His play fell off drastically down the stretch, as he became invisible for Indiana, not effecting the game on either end of the court. That was the case for most of the series, and Hibbert's poor play resulted in him playing just 24 minutes and scoring zero points in games five and six. Only one other player in NBA history made the all-star game and then had consecutive scoreless games, and that occurred in 1968. Then in Game 7, good Hibbert showed up, and he had 13 points, seven boards and five blocks over 31 minutes in leading Indiana to win. He was a different player than he had been the entire rest of the series, active on both ends and injecting life back into Indiana. If that Hibbert shows up, Indiana is an entirely different team, and the series is a different one then if the Hibbert of games 1-6 shows up.
Hibbert will matchup with Gortat, and it's almost impossible to tell how the matchup will go considering the aforementioned inconsistencies in Hibbert's play. If Hibbert is ineffective, Gortat could see a lot of Mahinmi, but if the Hibbert from the first half of the season and game 7 shows up, Hibbert will have his hands full, particularly on the defensive end. Hibbert can protect the rim like few others, and Gortat will have to work to get good looks.
The first, big off the bench for Indiana will be Ian Mahinmi. He is a seven footer, who is a solid rebounder and rim protector, but does not get used at all on the offensive end. He averaged more blocks per game than points per game over 17.9 minutes a game for Indiana. Scola is the other big who comes off the bench. When the Pacers went small in games six and seven against Atlanta, Scola did not play, but against a bigger Washington team, Scola should see more minutes. He's a very skilled big man who can score in bunches, as evidenced by his 20 points in Game 2 and 17 points in Game 3. He wasn't seen from much outside of those two games though. He's not nearly as physical as West, and Nene could potentially bully him in the post if he sees two much of the big Brazilian. More likely, he'll see minutes against Booker, who creates different problems for the veteran from Argentina with his endless energy.
The Wizards front court rotation is largely set and probably won't change much against Indiana. Gortat and Nene will start while Booker will play the majority of the minutes off the bench. Gooden and Harrington will provide spot minutes when Wittman wants to stretch the physical Indiana defense a little bit. Indiana's defense looked out of sorts at times when Atlanta's big men played out on the perimeter so Harrington and Gooden could both see some time in that regard. Otherwise it'll be more of the same for Washington's front line, which will rely very heavily on Gortat and Nene.
Neither of these benches are particularly prolific on the offensive end, with both finishing in the bottom five of the NBA in bench points per game. C.J. Watson and Ian Mahinmi are the two Pacers who play consistent minutes off the bench. Watson was terrific in the first round against Indiana, averaging 8.1 points per game. He was hurt for most of Indiana's stretch run and gave Indiana a different element when he got healthy. He is a guy who can play either position in the backcourt and can break down the defense, and is also a solid shooter from three point range. They'll use him either to lead the second unit or play next to Hill with the starters.
Mahinmi comes off the bench for Hibbert at the five and doesn't score, but is a quality rim protector and rebounder. He'll play Gortat or Nene tough on the defensive end, but won't tax them heavily on the other side as he gets very few touches. He's top 10 in the NBA in blocks per 48 minutes during the postseason so far.
The rest of the bench includes players that Vogel uses depending on the matchup. Evan Turner, Luis Scola, and Chris Copeland comprise this group. Turner and Scola both played bigger minutes early in the series, but when Vogel elected to go small, they saw less minutes. Copeland was the beneficiary of some of those minutes, as he DNP next to his name in three of the first four games but played big minutes during games five and six. Turner was a high volume scorer for Philadelphia early in the year, but struggled with his shot in Indiana and saw sporadic minutes. Scola is a savvy veteran big man, who is in a lot of respects the opposite of Mahinmi. He provides little in the way of rim protection, but is a good midrange guy who has some touch around the rim. Finally, Copeland is 6'9 and can space the floor as a three point shooter.
For Washington, the bench rotation appears to be fairly set, with Wittman mostly employing an eight man rotation. Miller is the caretaker of the offense when Wall has to rest, Webster plays the two and the three when one of Beal or Ariza rests, and Booker plays the front court minutes that Gortat and Nene do not. Gooden, Harrington, and Seraphin could also play spot minutes for Washington in the front court depending on the matchup.
Wizards - Randy Wittman
There was a lot made about Randy Wittman's inexperience heading into this postseason, as he did enter this year with zero games under his belt as a head coach. All he did was lead the Wizards to a 4-1 series win over the Bulls, while winning all three games on the road. Coaches often times take heat when a team loses and don't get much praise when a team wins, but give Wittman credit for pushing all the right buttons in the first series as many games were decided in the final few minutes. He shortened the Wizards' bench to eight players for a majority of the series, with Drew Gooden, Al Harrington, Garrett Temple, and Kevin Seraphin playing limited minutes. Wittman returns home to Indiana, where he grew up and went to college, and now looks to double his playoff series win total and send his Wizards to the Conference Finals.
Pacers - Frank Vogel
It's funny how a coach can go from being a Coach of the Year candidate to on the hot seat in a matter of months, but that's what happened with Pacers coach Frank Vogel. The Pacers jumped out of the gates playing better basketball than anyone in the league, and Vogel was at the helm. But their post all-star break slide led many pundits to question Vogel, fair or unfair, he took a lot of heat for the team slipping in the final few months. It should be noted that they still finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and Vogel played a big part in that.
For the Wizards, it will be Trevor Ariza. The Pacers biggest threat on offense is Paul George, and they often go as he does. Ariza will be given the task of keeping George in check this series. When the Wizards beat the Pacers late in the season, Ariza held George to 6/22 shooting. If he forces him into a couple of performances like that, the Wizards will be in good shape.
For the Pacers, it is going to be Roy Hibbert. Indiana is simply an entirely different team when Hibbert is playing at an all-star level. He has the potential to make the paint a very difficult place for the Wizards, as well as somebody who can chip in offensively. But if he plays like he did for most of the second half of the year, it will be a very difficult series for Indiana.
For the Wizards, I'm going with Trevor Booker. He's playing inspired basketball right now and was huge in the first round matchup with the Bulls. This should be another physical series and one where the Wizards will need to be active on the glass, so look for Booker to be the guy off the bench who not only provides energy but also puts up numbers against a tough Pacers' front line.
For the Pacers, I'm going with CJ Watson. For all the love the Pacers starting five garner, Watson is a guy who can get buckets and hit big shots from the perimeter. He averaged just over 22 minutes per game and scored just over eight points per game in the first round series with the Hawks. He shot 45% from 3-point range and that's where he can be really key for the Pacers in the series. If he gets hot from outside, the Wizards will have to keen in on him at all times on the floor.Posted in: Sports