This was yet another low-scoring affair in which Washington's lack of shot creation and inability to finish at the basket around Roy Hibbert was their downfall. The Wizards were slightly discombobulated early on, forcing shots and playing loose defense before settling down by the second quarter. That's common among inexperienced teams but you would think that by now they would have shaken whatever playoff jitters they'd have by now.
The second half and third quarter in particular is when things began to turn around, however briefly. Washington clamped down on defense, forced a few turnovers and a Wall layup got the lead down to seven which is about when the crowd went completely bananas. Soon enough, though, the flow of the game reverted back to the way it was during the first half in which the Washington guards would continually drive to the basket, get stopped a few feet from the paint and kick out to Gortat or Nene for a contested fadeaway 15 feet from the hoop. While these look like decent shots, it's an inefficient way to run an offense and slows the pace of the game, playing right into the Pacers' hands.
Washington finally got back into it when Wall made a floater with 8:58 left to put the Wizards down two, 73-71. Hibbert going to the bench for the start of the quarter allowed Washington to establish some momentum, then a Beal three out of a time out game the Wizards their first lead since early in the game ...
... and just like that, it was over. Indiana countered with a run of their own, fueled largely by David West's jumper and some bad turnovers and missed threes by Washington. A small Washington lead became a small Indiana lead, then a large one. There was hope for half a second as Beal launched a three with Washington down nine and three minutes on the clock but he airballed the shot, the Pacers turned around and got two off a Stephenson floater, and the Pacers spent the last two minutes on cruise control.
So I guess that's that. The most successful Washington Wizards season since the 1970s is over. If you're reading this you're probably more than a little depressed, perhaps even despondent. Don't be. They played hard and they played for each other, and that's all you can ask of a team. And hey, with the publicity this little run brought the team, at least you'll have a few more people around the DMV to talk hoops with.
We'll have more on the season that was as well as Game 6 in the next day or two. For now, though, just try to stay positive and focus on all the good things this team accomplished this year.
- John Wall had a quiet game and never seemed to get going. George Hill did an excellent job of pestering him on the perimeter and he struggled to get all the way to the basket without having his kick outs deflected by George or his layups heavily contested by the 7'2 Roy Hibbert. He desperately needs a floater, something that would allow him to score more regularly against defenses that pack the paint like Indy as well as save his body some wear and tear from all the spills he takes around the basket.
- Lance Stephenson can be a little streaky and tonight that played out in Indiana's favor. He constanlty made plays off the dribble and his unpredictableness was a stark contrast to the far more predictable four players around him. That said, he demonstrated the qualities that could make him a disaster as a free agent signing if he winds up in the wrong place. Players who over-dribble and think score first can wreak havoc on the chemistry, both on-court and off-court, of their teams and Stephenson fits this to a t. He'd be a great addition to the Nets or Bulls due to his athleticism and jets, but he could cause literal fist fights if he winds up in a place like Houston or Sacramento.
- Bradley Beal never quite found his rhythm tonight. He hit a few jumpers but struggled to find the catch and shoot opportunities that are his specialty, largely due to how hampered Wall's playmaking ability was. He also had a couple of awful experiences taking the ball to the basket, struggling to finish against the Pacers length and taking a couple of nasty falls that never seemed to lead to free throws. All in all, though, his performance wasn't awful or anything and it's important to remember that this guy still can't legally drink. Shooting guards of his ilk tend to peak around 27, 28 years old. As good as he is now, can you imagine how much better he'll be after seven years of continuous improvements to his game and body?
- The crowd was good tonight, especially at the start of the game and during Washington's rallies in the second half. They also gave a nice ovation to the team during garbage time when the game had been decided and even engaged in some "Let's go Wizards" chants, more as a thank you than due to any realistic chance of the team coming back. They're still not exactly the toast of the town, but people seem to be really getting into the team, and that's a good thing any time they're looking to attract free agents.
- It was fitting that the last 15 seconds or so of the game featured not only two missed free throws (leading to free Chick-Fil-A and a huge ovation from the crowd) and an Otto Porter airball. Fans continued to chant "Let's Go Wizards" even after time had expired and gave a standing ovation to the clearly crushed players as they left the floor.