The Washington Wizards used some hot shooting to take the first game of their Eastern Conference second-round series with the Indiana Pacers but a pair of dismal offensive outings have cost the Wizards the last two games as the Pacers now lead 2-1. Struggles from key players, including John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster, have stalled the offense to just 145 points over the last two games. The AFRO recaps the first week of the Wizards’ second round matchup.

Game One-May 5
Washington used an impressive 10-of-16 shooting from deep to spread apart a vulnerable Pacers defense and a huge game one from Beal to steal a 102-96 road win from the stunned Pacers last Monday night. Beal recorded 25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals and led five other Wizards players in double figures as Washington won their first second-round playoff game since 1982. The offense ran smoothly and Beal came up with timely plays in the final stanza to help the Wizards to the victory. Washington also enjoyed a poor performance from Pacers starting center Roy Hibbert, who went scoreless with zero rebounds that caused a media outcry following the former Georgetown star’s third ho-hum performance in the last four outings.

Game Two-May 7
The following game on Wednesday night saw Hibbert break out of his funk as he led an inspired effort with a career-high 28 points and nine rebounds as Indiana tip-toed past Washington 86-82. Down by three points with more than a minute remaining, Washington took several ill-advised threes in attempt to tie the game rather than going for a higher percentage shot. Washington also took a brief 77-74 lead with over five minutes left in the game before Indiana rallied to take the final lead. The Wizards had chances to put the Pacers in a tight position but their inexperience showed in this game. Marcin Gortat (21 points, 11 rebounds) had a strong night but his efforts were offset by Hibbert’s huge performance. The Pacers defense adjusted, correcting their game one mistakes and tightened their assignments to suck Wall into a 2-for-13 shooting night as the star guard finished with just six points.

Game Three-May 9
A 17-17 tie at the end of the first quarter was a sign of things to come for Washington in their return to the Verizon Center. It turned out to be one of their worst performances of the season. The outing was dismal and at times unbearable to watch for frustrated fans at the Verizon Center. Washington shot just 33 percent from the field, 25 percent from long range and 52 percent from the free throw line. The Wizards ended the third quarter with just 45 points as fans began filing for the exits before the final quarter had even begun. The Wizards power trio of Wall, Nene and Beal shot just 15-of-46 from the field as the Pacers just forced Washington into one tough shot after another. Hibbert added another solid game, recording 14 points and five rebounds in the outing.

Analysis of Series So Far
The two performances after their game one victory of the series have been night and day for the Wizards. In the opening game, Beal ran wild before Indiana adjusted and issued star forward Paul George the defensive challenge. Hibbert’s additions have also helped change the complexity of the series as Indiana has rallied behind their struggling big man and fed off his new found energy and confidence. The series is still winnable for Washington but for the Wizards game four on May 11 at the Verizon Center is a must-win affair to avoid a 3-1 hole.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO