It just doesn’t feel right. The way this team has played this postseason it doesn’t feel right to say that their last 48 minutes of basketball could be played tonight. After how handily we beat Chicago, winning three on the road, we moved on to round two to face a seemingly crumbling Pacers team.
The Wizards walked into Bankers Life Fieldhouse last Monday, riding their round one momentum to a 102-96 victory to take the first of the series. It has been nothing but downhill since. Games two and three saw poor shooting performances from go-to scorers. Then game four happened, and in the blink of an eye the Wizards collapsed on a 19-point margin to let the Pacers bring the series to a 3-1 lead in their favor.
But Game five was different. Upon returning to Indianapolis the Wizards played at their peak level, demonstrating how lethal Gortat can be in the pick-and-roll, and how easily rebounding translates to victories. The Wizards outperformed the Pacers by 39 rebounds on the glass.
I’m not ready to give up on this team, they’ve shown that they can bring it on the road and steady veteran play is the key to resilience where winning away from home is concerned. They took three games on the road against the Bulls, and United Center doesn’t exactly roll out a welcome mat for
Hopefully tonight the Wizards will have more success at home. They lost games three and four in Washington, and seceded one to the Bulls in the opening round. 1-3 at home doesn’t have a very nice ring to it.
Here are tonight’s keys to victory:
Spacing the Floor
The Wizards have three players that shoot over 40% from three. Trevor Ariza finished among the league’s top ten three point shooters during the regular season. The collective ability of him, Bradley Beal and Martell Webster to provide options for John Wall can make or break a game with their play alone.
Big Time Big Man Play
Since game two, Roy Hibbert has played like the All-Star he showed he can be during the first four months of the season. After having no points and no rebounds in game 1, he has bounced back to average 15.8 points and 6.3 boards in games 2-5. Gortat played unstoppably in game five, putting up 31 points and 16 rebounds while his Pacer counterpart went 2 for 7 from the floor with just 2 rebounds. The Wizards won by 23, and Gortat was the unquestionable catalyst.
John Wall’s Motor
Wall is at his best, and the Wizards are at theirs, when he gets into the lane drawing fouls or dishing out. He led the league in total assists, but at times he can be too unselfish, opting for the extra pass instead of an open look. That confidence will grow with time, but he shows flashes of brilliance and potential every night. He is a better offensive player than George Hill is a defender, proving on many a fast break that he is among the fastest in the league with the ball in his hands. His ability to play floor general while also creating for himself will dictate how far this team can go.