It hasn't been a good few weeks for the Washington Wizards. Wednesday's loss to the Phoenix Suns was disheartening to say the least. The Wiz Kids have lost four of their last five and now they get to host the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers, fresh off their thrilling 84-83 win over the Miami Heat. While Indiana has lost three of their last five, they're also really, really, really good and beat the Wizards by a combined total of 47 points in their last two meetings. Let's see how this one goes.
Where and when? Gametime is 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center.
Are they good? They have a better record than the Miami Heat. Yes, they're good.
What are they good at? Defense, defense, defense. With elite defenders at four positions and a very good one in David West, the Pacers' starting five is one of the best defensive units in recent NBA history. Hibbert's ability to protect the rim by blocking a lot of shots (2.3 per game in only 30 minutes of action) and altering countless others is at the heart of Indiana's dominance, but don't sleep on just how good the rest of the team is. George Hill is one of the five best defensive point guards in the NBA, Lance Stephenson is a human wrecking ball who lives for the challenge of checking the league's elite, and Paul George is regularly compared to Scottie Pippen. Indiana has an incredible amount of talent and the will and coaching to get the most out of it and, as a result, are leading the NBA in defensive rating by a mile.
What are they bad at? Putting the ball in the basket. Indiana's offense is only 21st in the NBA in terms of points scored per possession and a lot of it can be tied to a lack of a shot creating ability. While George has gotten press for his more developed offensive game, he's still not a natural first option. Meanwhile, despite occasionally gaudy point totals in nationally televised games, Hibbert's scoring isn't particularly efficient and the team's ball movement suffers when they run their offense through him in the post.
Who's going to win? My (imaginary) money's on Indiana. Washington's been slumping and it would be great to see them turn things around, but it's probably not going to happen tonight. Indiana is an awesome team and they've absolutely destroyed Washington the last few times they've played. If the Wizards are going to pull this one out, it's going to be because Hibbert sits and/or John Wall or Bradley Beal get red hot from the outside.