This is the home stretch. The Washington Wizards have seven games left this year, three of which are at home. Tonight they face the Indiana Pacers, one of the best teams in the NBA and the third-best in the Eastern Conference. If Washington's serious about doing things in the playoffs next year, they're going to need to learn to beat defensive juggernauts like Indiana on a regular basis.
We'll worry about that next year. In the meantime, it's a beautiful April day in the District of Columbia and this is one of the last Wizards games any of us will have the opportunity to attend. Let's just enjoy the show and try to appreciate this team before everyone makes like Journey and goes their separate ways.
Where and when? Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center.
Are they good? Uh huh. Indiana's Paul George-led offense usually gets the job done, but where they really shine is on defense. Everyone on the team has bought in, Roy Hibbert's 7'2 and the Pacers have had enough athleticism and grit to post the NBA's best defensive rating this year.
Who's out? In case you hadn't heard, Bradley Beal is out for the season, while Nene is listed as day-to-day. Indiana is more or less healthy, with Danny Granger still out for the season and Ian Mahinmi day-to-day.
Why should I care? Washington only has three more home games this season. One's against the Heat's reserves, the other is against Philadelphia. This is, quite possibly, the last decent game you'll get to see at the Verizon Center this year.
What are they good at? Playing smart defense. Similar to Washington, Indiana doesn't have any truly elite defensive players, but everyone in the frontcourt knows where to be and their perimeter guys are all either good or at least not dumb defenders. It's almost useless to attempt to drive an kick against the Pacers, something that could really give John Wall problems tonight. MySynergySports.com ranks Indiana first in the NBA in overall defense, defense against spot up shooters and transition, as well as placing the Pacers in the NBA's top five in defense against roll men and isolations. NBA defense isn't rocket science when you have a center like Hibbert who never leaves the paint and doesn't need to jump (or even move in some cases) in order to disrupt a shot.
What are they bad at? The Pacers desperately need George to be an elite go-to scorer. He's not there yet. Indiana's offense is only 22nd in the NBA in efficiency, largely because it doesn't have anyone to play off and draw defensive attention. George is a really good player who's going to make a couple of All Star teams, but he doesn't have that alpha dog mentality yet. He's only 22, the same age as John Wall, though, and he's already a beast, so it's very possible that he'll eventually develop into that type of player.
Where else can I read about the Pacers? Check out Indy Cornrows. It's like Bullets Forever if it was run by Pacers fans.
Who's going to win tonight? Despite the Pacers excelling at stopping what Washington is starting to get good at doing, it's hard to bet against the Wizards at home. My best guess is that Wall guts out a tough game and Washington gets another win. #homerism
What are your predictions for tonight's game? Vote in our poll and sound off in the comments!