It wasn't supposed to be like this. When the NBA's worst offense meets its best defense, one that excels at stopping the kinds of plays that are Washington's bread and butter, there isn't supposed to be a lot of scoring. For that matter, when the third best team in the East plays against a team whose season was essentially over in January, the team with the worse record isn't supposed to to win by 19 points, 104-85.
So how did this happen? John Wall is really, really, really, really good.
Wall looked every bit the franchise player as he dropped 37 points on the Pacers. The cool thing about this game, other than the insane athletic display that Wall put on, is that Washington really didn't play that well. Bradley Beal was out, Nene looks like he's about to call it quits for the season due to nagging injuries and no one else on the team was able to get anything going. Nonetheless, Washington pulled out an easy win since no one could guard their best player. For the first time in years, it's starting to look like this is going to be a regular occurrence.
- George Hill went under the screen on the first two pick and rolls Washington ran and Wall punished him both times by hitting a midrange jumper. Just about everything was clicking for Washington early on. Wall had some phenomenal transition plays, Nene used his quickness to get the better of West and Hibbert and Webster did his Martell Webster thing, hitting spot up jumper after spot up jumper. Washington rode this good play to a 17-10 lead before Indiana called time at the 6:46 mark.
- Wall is just so fast up the floor. On Washington's first play after the Indy timeout, he basically went 1-4 against the Pacers in transition for the and-one. Better yet, he had the Pacers so beat that he could have just as easily kicked the ball out to Temple for an open three pointer from the corner. A few minutes later, he was called for a foul on a chasedown block on Paul George (who's listed height of 6'8 is about three inches shorter than he looks in person) that could have gone either way. You heard it here, folks: John Wall is fast.
- Garrett Temple was pretty nice in the first quarter, too. He played solid defense against Hill and Stephenson and had a nice steal and layup when he caught Indiana napping on an inbounds play. He deserves more credit for how rarely he bites on pump fakes, too, and I wouldn't even be opposed to keeping him around as sort of a poor man's George Hill next year.
- I never thought I'd type these words, but Kevin Seraphin had a great drive and kick to Garrett Temple for a three. What the H!? He's been a lot better at reading and reacting these last few months. He also appears to be able to get his hook shot off against the significantly taller Hibbert. If he can make half his shots and Wall can play to his normal abilities, Washington still might be able to get the W tonight.
- Someway, somehow a game between the NBA's best defense and its worst offense was 31-26 at the end of the first quarter. Washington got almost all of its points from Wall, with the majority coming on plays that fans would call highlights and objective observers would call flukes. The Wizards have a five point lead, but it won't last if they don't do a better job of playing to their strengths on offense when the ball is out of Wall's hands. There have been more than a few Okafor isolations and jumpers and, as fun as it is to see happen, the Seraphin to Temple drive and kick isn't a good long term strategy.
- Booker and Hansbrough got into it a bit in the second quarter. A muay thai match between the two would be awesome halftime entertainment.
- An Augustin three gave Indiana the lead, 38-37, with about seven minutes left in the second quarter. Price has played him well, but good offense will always beat good defense. Almost all of Washington's defensive lapses can be traced back to their bigs getting beaten, frequently on the perimeter. Once Booker left the floor, things settled down a bit. More often than not, it seems like Washington's defense falls apart any time Booker takes the floor, especially when he's paired with Okafor and to a lesser extent Seraphin.
- How much longer is Wall going to be automatic from the right elbow? He had 22 points before halftime and looked unguardable. It's mind blowing that the team will still run post ups for Okafor when Wall is out there with a shooter like Webster spotting up.
- Hibbert is just too tall for Okafor to guard. He had 17 points by the 2:00 mark in the second quarter, destroyed Okafor on a dunk attempt, repeatedly shot over him in the post, and was able to take practically uncontested jumpers any time he wanted to. It wasn't until Jason Collins came in that he started to slow down. It's actually surprising we didn't see Collins earlier considering that the only thing he's good at is guarding players like Hibbert.
- On a related note, watching Collins shoot from the top of the key during a pick and pop attempt is hilarious in the same way that watching Biedrins shoot free throws is. No joke, his lone jumper in the first half didn't clear the top of the backboard at the peak of its arc.
- 51-48 Washington at the half. Wall had 26 points and played better than anyone I've seen in a Wizards uniform since Gilbert had two healthy knees. If it weren't for Wall's brilliance, the score would be more like 31-48.
- Wall really shined to start the third quarter as Washington jumped out to a 63-48 lead. Indiana had to resort to putting Paul George on him at times and they still weren't able to stop him. There are only a handful of people on the planet who are physically capable of guarding Wall when his shot is falling like this.
- George started to bother Wall with his length in the third, but by then, Washington had more or less figured out how to slow down Hibbert. A pair of Booker free throws were answered by a Gerald Green jumper over Webster as Washington held an 11 point lead at the close of the third quarter.
- Most people who follow basketball have heard of Tyler Hansbrough, DJ Augustin, Ian Mahinmi and Gerald Green so there tends to be this assumption that Indiana's bench is at least decent. It's not. None of these guys really knows how to set anyone else up and Mahihnmi is the only remotely decent defender of the bunch. This matters a lot less in the playoffs when rotations tighten up, but the Pacers could still really use a guy like Jeremy Lin or Al Jefferson to come off the bench and either put up points or at the very least set up guys like Green and Augustin for jumpers.
- The last few minutes of the fourth quarter were uneventful. Green can be fun to watch, but this was essentially pickup basketball once Indy's starters went out.