The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Led by defence, Pacers take 2-1 lead into Game 4 against Wizards; getting 'mojo' back

  • Print

WASHINGTON - For the final 1 1/2 months of the regular season, and the first eight games of the playoffs, the Indiana Pacers' suddenly sloppy play raised all sorts of questions.

Why did Paul George and Co. go from one of the NBA's top teams to a mediocre one?

How did coach Frank Vogel's team lose its way?

Could the Pacers right things in time?

"Sometimes teams go through tough stretches. We just went through ours toward the end of the year. But we were playing (great) basketball in the beginning of the year. Normally it's the complete opposite — going through struggles early and figuring it out," guard George Hill said. "Now we're starting to get back, and things are starting to click the right way. And we're starting to get our mojo back."

It all starts with defence, the single most important reason the Pacers own a 2-1 lead over the Washington Wizards heading into Sunday night's Game 4 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.

After allowing John Wall and the Wizards to take Game 1 with 102 points, the Pacers have won two in a row by limiting Washington to 82 in Game 2, then a franchise-record-low 63 in Game 3.

"That's what we want to be," Vogel said. "We had great regular-season success by being a dominant defensive team — limiting the 3-ball, keeping teams out of transition, limiting teams to one shot, being a dominant defensive rebounding team — and that's who our identity is."

Giving up an average of 92.3 points in the regular season, Indiana ranked second among 30 NBA teams in defence.

In Friday's 85-63 road victory, the Pacers limited the Wizards to 12 points in the third quarter and 30 in the second half. Washington made 25 per cent of its 3-point attempts and 33 per cent of all field-goal tries. Wall alone had seven turnovers — although from early in the third quarter, he was dealing with a scratched right eye that made it so he "could barely see," he explained Saturday.

"I wouldn't just put it all on John," said shooting guard Bradley Beal, who was hounded by George and shot 6 for 19 overall, 1 for 5 on 3s. "He's only one guy. There's four other guys out there, and there's 12 total who are able to play."

One key adjustment by the Pacers in Game 3 was working to slow Washington's quick pace by sending players back on defence instead of emphasizing offensive rebounding.

Repeatedly, George or Lance Stephenson would get down court quickly and help Hill slow Wall.

"They didn't make anything easy. They were all together on one page on the defensive end," Beal said, adding: "I didn't feel comfortable."

That's what Indiana did to Washington in November, when the Pacers won 93-73. And again in January during a 93-66 victory.

Indeed, that's how the Pacers treated most opponents at that time. They rolled to a 46-13 record — a .780 winning percentage — on March 2, setting them up to be the No. 1 seed in the East. But from there, Indiana went 10-13 the rest of the way, a .435 clip.

In the post-season, the Pacers trailed the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks 3-2 in the first round before pulling that series out in Game 7. Then came a Game 1 loss to fifth-seeded Washington.

"Maybe we weren't handling success the greatest," forward David West said.

"Maybe we were listening to what everybody was saying about us, people talking good about us," he explained. "There were times we felt we could come out and didn't necessarily have to play or execute to win. We lost some games because of that."

Game 3 against Washington was different, and West hopes Game 4 will be, too.

"We were engaged. Our team as a whole was locked into their schemes and what they were trying to do. Our aggression was at the right level," West said. "Our hands were active, our feet were active, our voices were active on defence."

Add in the recently revitalized Roy Hibbert — zero points in Game 1, but 28 in Game 2, then 14 in Game 3, along with a real presence in the paint at the defensive end — and, as Vogel put it Saturday: "It makes us feel like we're back to being us."

___

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Stuart Murray announces musical RightsFest for CMHR opening weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goose sits in high grass near Marion Friday afternoon for cover -See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 18 - May 25, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How surpised are you by the Bombers’ 4-1 start to the season?

View Results

Ads by Google