Just a few games ago, the Washington Wizards were being hailed as the surprise of the postseason. The inexperienced team knocked off the higher-seeded Chicago Bulls in only five games in the opening round. Washington continued its strong play into the next series with a Game 1 win over the top-seeded Indiana Pacers.
Unfortunately, they’ve now run into a road block.
The Wizards dropped a close Game 2 on the road and, on Friday, were blown out 85-63 at home in Game 3 by the Pacers, in what head coach Randy Wittman appropriately termed ‘a clunker’. While Indiana is playing better, led by the resurgent Roy Hibbert, Washington’s real issue has been its stagnant offense.
While Friday’s dismal performance (more on that in a bit) was by far their worst showing of the series, the offense has struggled badly the entire series.
The Wizards scored 102 points in their Game 1 surprise, but they needed 84 shots to do it. As a whole, the team shot just under 42 percent from the field and was able to win in large part because the Pacers were even worse (40.7 percent) offensively. While the team shot better in Game 2, two of the team’s best starters had miserable performances. Starters John Wall and Trevor Ariza combined for a woeful 4-21 from the field and a better night by either player could have meant an improbable 2-0 lead against the favored Pacers.
As bad as things were in those first two games, the Wizards hit an all-time low in Friday’s Game 3. A franchise low, actually.
Per ESPN, Washington’s 63 points were the fewest the team has ever scored in a game. Following the contest, the list highlighting their ineptitude was a mile long. The Wizards didn’t score even 20 points in any quarter. The bench’s grand total of eight points was bested single-handedly by Luis Scola, who had 11 for the Pacers’ reserves on his own. The team shot 32.9 percent from the field.
The Wizards’ problems extended past their own shooting, too. Washington was forced into 17 turnovers and just put together one of the worst performances seen in the postseason.
To their credit, the Indiana defense has had something to do with it. Following the game on Friday, forward Drew Gooden stated that the Pacers just took the team out of their comfort zone on offense and an inspired Roy Hibbert has been a big part of that. Hibbert is again a force in the middle and is providing a presence that’s disrupting things in the paint. In his first six playoff games this year, the center had a total of only four blocks. In the last four, Hibbert has swatted 12 shots away. Add in the number of shots he’s undoubtedly altered or the number of times the Wizards have been hesitant to come into the paint and it’s easy to see that he’s been invaluable lately.
Washington still has a chance in this series with a Game 4 win. To tie things up, though, the team will need to be better offensively.