Great defense is the cornerstone to a title run in the NBA and however you feel about the kind of offense the Indiana Pacers are doing, their defense in game 3, leading to a 85-63 win over the Washington Wizards, is what makes them still, despite everything that’s happened to them in these playoffs, a championship contender.
It was the defense that we saw from the Pacers for most of the season. Roy Hibbert is back to his imposing form, which means moving him away from the basket is very difficult, and scoring on him when he’s near the rim turns into an almost impossible task at times, as the Wizards were forced to take contested jumpers all game long and especially in the second half. Paul George’s work on Bradley Beal stood out more than anyone else’s during the game.
George did lead the Pacers with 23 points in a less than efficient performance from the Pacers offense (hitting only 41.9% of their field goal attempts) but they were mostly hot from long range (46.7%), didn’t make mistakes and when they did get open shots, which became something a bit more consistent in the second half, they knocked them down. David West with his 12 points was extremely successful with his timing in the fourth quarter, knocking the wind out of the Wizards’ sails whenever they thought of a comeback.
It isn’t pretty, but the Pacers don’t care. After such a difficult series against the Hawks and all the turmoil around the team through the later part of this season, just winning and feeling confident on defense again feels great, even if it makes for bad television.
Listen, we don’t worry about if we’re looking good for TV. The other teams can do that, can fill that void with fancy basketball. We don’t worry about that.
But while the Pacers don’t play beautiful basketball on offense, their defense can be a thing of wonder, and if there’s anyone to blame for this game being a bad advertisement to why you should tune in to watch an NBA game, blame the Wizards for looking so helpless in the second half, scoring only 30 points. John Wall still hasn’t showed up to the series (15 points this time) and Randy Wittman is trying to criticize him through interviews to get some sort of reaction.
Bradley Beal, who has been quite impressive so far in his first postseason, had a game to forget. He did score 16 points, one of only three Wizards players in double figures, but he needed 19 shots to get there (6-of-19). Like the rest of his team, he seemed to be running into the wrong situation time and time again, be it a contested shot in the paint or from long range with a bad decision to pull up for a jumper.
The Wizards were an awful 3-of-26 on contested jump shots in the game including 1-of-17 during the first three quarters. In Games 1 and 2, they shot 42% and scored 56 points on such shots. The Pacers didn’t turn the ball over and hardly allowed any opportunities in transition, limiting the Wizards to only 49 points on half court. Doing that to a team on their home court is all the more humiliating.
So are the Pacers back? Baby steps on their way there, according to Paul George. The confidence, maybe the most important factor in this equation, is on its way to where it should be. Maybe smelling the Miami Heat from miles away is awakening all the good things the Pacers are about. Maybe it’s just someone doing his owkr and bringing this team back together. Suddenly, mentioning them with championships doesn’t sound so ridiculous anymore.