WASHINGTON -- That was one of the most depressing postgame locker room scenes I've ever witnessed in five-plus years covering this team. Players took forever to get dressed, to the point where public relations staffers had to track them down. John Wall lingered in the training room dealing with a cut below his eye before finally emerging around 11:45, several minutes after many writers decided to abandon ship and try to meet their deadlines.
That 85-63 loss was earth-shattering to us, and it seemed like it was to them too. Most of us figured that Pacers team was never coming back. Worse, the first seven games of the playoffs almost convinced us that Wizards team was also gone forever. Instead, they arrived together in one horrible, no-good, very bad game that had fans scurrying for the exits with several minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Each Wizards player had a different explanation. Some notable ones:
JOHN WALL: "I think we had a lot of pace to start the game. We just didn't make shots. If you're not making shots, you don't want to keep that same pace just to force shots up and give those guys an opportunity to run."
RANDY WITTMAN: "[John's] got to stay aggressive. I think he had some hesitation in his game tonight, in between 'What do I do here.' That's something we never see, and he's got to fight through it."
DREW GOODEN: "I think we were very confident, maybe overly confident coming into this game. Thinking that we were going to take the Pacers and put them down early, but that wasn't the case."
TREVOR ARIZA: "We turned the ball over too much and we didn't run our offense the way we're capable of running our offense. ... It wasn't anything they did. We just didn't do what we normally do."
ANDRE MILLER: "We find ourselves standing around a bit playing pick and roll, and that played into their defense. We just got to continue to move the ball, but our defense needs to force turnovers too."
BRADLEY BEAL: "I think we got involved in what they do. We let them affect us too much."
NENE: "Sometimes we focus too much on making shots and in our own way, we shut down a little bit."
GOODEN: "I just think we missed a lot of shots that we usually knock down, and it's only so much defense you can play. We played our defense. We just didn't play our offense. We can't try to win ballgames in the 80s or low 90s."
WITTMAN: "John was trying to push it. We didn't have five guys running with him."
BEAL: "Yeah, I was [forcing some shots]. But at the same time, I was trying to get Paul [George] tired so it's make Trevor [Ariza's] job on the other end."
NENE: "They did a great job executing their game to pound the low block. I think we that a little bit more."
BEAL: "That's one adjustment that they made. Lance [Stephenson] and Paul [George], they don't even really crash [the offensive glass]. They're just running back on defense. But at the same time, we still get the rebound, and we can still push it. We still have our transition offense that we run that's very efficient."
The fix will not be easy. Indiana is fully engaged, and it may be time for some drastic measures.
Here's my piece for the mothership on the game. Safe to say that Game 2 wasn't Indiana's A game after all.
Dominique Wilkins was not happy about the fans booing the team in the fourth quarter.
Even get Gooden going with a little energy and hustle to get the home crowd going. No reason ur arena should be booing. #playoffSupport— Dominique Wilkins (@DWilkins21) May 10, 2014
I didn't really like it either, but I get it. That was embarrassing, and we've seen the Wizards lay down after brief stretches of brilliance all year. Wall was asked about it and said he understood. "That's their right."
Left for dead outside Verizon Center pic.twitter.com/pQDGqNv7tJ— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) May 10, 2014
The good news is that it's just one game. One incredibly demoralizing game, sure, but just one game. Indiana still needs to win Game 4 to really feel comfortable, and we know how capable this Wizards team is on the road. The postgame thread was gloomy, as it should be, but just as we've seen this team lay down when things were going well, so too have they often rallied when things weren't. So I'm not ready to call this series just yet, even if I'm exponentially less confident than before.