Back in January, I wrote what I considered to be the book on how to beat Indiana's stifling defense. It was full of tactics such as quick-hitting plays, sideline pick and rolls, declining ball screens, etc. The Wizards should use them in Game 4.
There was one important element that it missed, though, one that's more important than all others. It was best encapsulated by the great Zach Lowe of Grantland when he described the brilliance of Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic.
You want to see perhaps the most fearless performances in the NBA this season? Cue up the Suns' two-game sweep of Indiana and watch, jaw agape, as Dragic sizes up Roy Hibbert near the basket, puts his head down, and zooms right the fuck at the league's best rim protector. Hibbert scares the bejesus out of everyone. LeBron developed a floater for use exclusively against Hibbert, and he rarely goes to the rim against the big fella until the last two minutes of a close game in which Indiana has smashed the other parts of Miami's offense to pieces.
Dragic didn't give a crap. He just went right at Hibbert, and everyone else in his way this season.
The Pacers have the league's best rim protection, but a huge part of that is the intimidation factor. When they're making you scared to drive, then they become the best rim protectors the universe will ever see. You've already lost when you let them get to that level.
In Game 3, the Wizards freaked out and were scared to drive right at them. John Wall was a big culprit, but it wasn't just him. Many players got to the rim and stopped, choosing instead to kick it out or shoot a weak shot. Bradley Beal even admitted it after the game when he said this, referring to Hibbert:
"I'm 6'3, 6'4. He's 7'2. You do the math."
The math doesn't matter tonight. The Wizards need to go at Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi and live with the consequences. They need to accept that even if some wild drives and turnovers result, that's the trade-off that's necessary. They need to accept that they'll get their shot blocked sometimes, that they won't always get the call. They need to not give a crap.
Do so from the opening tip, and other options will open up. Play unafraid, and good things will happen. Play scared, and the Pacers have already won.
Game time: 8 p.m.
Radio: 99.1 FM.