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NBA Playoffs 2014: How the Pacers corralled John Wall in Game 2

The Pacers have proven to be a difficult matchup for John Wall throughout his NBA career, and that hasn't changed in this playoff series. We explain why Indiana has fared so well limiting the Wizards' star and what Wall must do to make them pay.

Ron Hoskins/NBA

It would be an understatement to say John Wall struggles against the Indiana Pacers. He's been bad throughout his career in this matchup, and it really shouldn't surprise anyone. Indiana's an elite defense that takes away his passing lanes and forces him into midrange jumpers.

That Wall's posted a 17-2 assist to turnover ratio in the first two games of the series and has looked every bit the floor general is reason to be somewhat encouraged. The Wizards live off his dribble penetration because he can make any pass on the floor. The moment he senses a help defender stepping out of position, he'll hit his teammate's shooting pocket for a corner three. He can slip the ball into airtight spaces out of the pick and roll, leading his big man perfectly to the hoop. He can toss no-look passes behind himself to his big man popping out for the midrange jumper. A lot of this occurs without even the threat of his jumper.

But you have to credit the Pacers for a hell of a game plan to slow Wall down. The Bulls were willing to live with the 15-19 feet jumper if it meant packing the paint and staying home on his shooters. The Pacers have taken it a step further. Not only are they dropping Roy Hibbert in the lane and using him to protect the basket, but they're also taking away Wall's first two reads as well.

There's some obvious indecision on Wall's part here, but it's due to Indiana's defense. Wall can't take it all the way to the rim, not with David West hanging back on the pick and roll and Hibbert lurking on the back end. He can't even get it back to Nene with George Hill lurking and has to be cognizant of taking the jumper with Paul George faking at him from the corner.


That's three Indiana defenders directly involved in that pick and pop, and that's not including Lance Stephenson in the far corner hugging the dangerous Trevor Ariza away from the immediate play. In the regular season, Wall might have made that pass into the corner with the defender jumping out to contain Nene, but Indiana is too disciplined. The only pass to be made is the one to Beal, and that isn't really open because George is so good at recovering.

The Wizards then run it back, but the Pacers defend the play even better. Here's the still right before George Hill deflects the pass at the end of the shot clock.


This is a mirror image of the first screenshot, except on different sides of the floor. Nene will again screen and fade, and again Hill comes up in the passing lane and eventually gets the deflection. But look again how Stephenson stunts just a little toward Wall to disrupt his timing, while Paul George stays on Beal on the opposite side. None of it really matters since Wall was set on making the pass back to Nene anyway, but there's absolutely no way he gets off a clean look or gets to the hoop.

It's on the guard defender to dictate how he wants to play the pick and roll. The Pacers' scheme is set in stone; they won't abandon it by dragging their big away from the rim. The onus is on the guard to fight over the screen and dictate how he wants to play it out. He can either get into the passing lane if he thinks a pass is coming or he can contest if his man goes up for a shot.

Either way, the Pacers will live with the results.



If Wall's making these jumpers, all of this would be moot. We'd be speculating if Hill was wrong for playing this as passively as he did. But that's the nature of the beast. Unless John wakes up and starts hitting a few of these jumpers, these are the results Washington's going to have to deal with in Game 3.

How Wall handles these pick and rolls moving forward is going to be the challenge. He could look to take a page out of Jeff Teague's book and decline a few more of these screens. He's definitely quick enough to get to the rim. As long as he's getting into the lane, things will begin to open up for him.

Washington's big men scored on nine of their 11 attempts out of the pick and roll, so Wall's doing his job getting them going. Wall has found success with Gortat due to his propensity to dive straight to the rim, and Beal has worked the two-man game with Nene masterfully.

But the Wizards are going to have to find ways to get Wall going to regain control of this series. They can't afford stretches of four to five minutes without a field goal like that ugly one in the third quarter and they certainly can't continue to deploy Wall as a spot-up three-point shooter on three consecutive possessions, as they did late in the fourth quarter. Beal has bailed them out through two games with some big shots, but they're playing with fire if they expect to win another close game with the same offense that was run in Game 2.

The Wizards might have to live with Wall taking more jumpers than shots at the rim, and that's fine. Wall needs to have more confidence in said shots and knock them down.

But unless the Wizards find ways to get him into the lane, the offense will remain one-dimensional and Hibbert will continue to look like the hero of the series.