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Wizards vs. Pacers, NBA Playoffs 2014 Game 3 preview: No major adjustments needed

The Wizards' gameplan was sound in Game 2. If they clean up the execution, they should win Game 3.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The day after Game 2 happened, I wrote that we shouldn't be too concerned with the loss. The Wizards played a poor game and were still right there at the end. Duplicate that effort going forward, and the Wizards will still win the series.

After rewatching the game, I feel even stronger in that opinion. The difference in Game 2 came down to several breakdowns that need to be cleaned up ... and they weren't necessarily the obvious ones like John Wall's late-game shot selection. A few examples:

  • Very early in the game, the Wizards were stuck with Bradley Beal on Paul George. George took him into the post, and the Wizards doubled nicely the first time. But when the Pacers re-posted, George walked into the middle of the lane without a second defender coming. Too easy.
  • The Wizards' first timeout happened because Wall was standing upright in transition and Marcin Gortat didn't come over to stop George Hill's drive. Too easy.
  • A bad miscommunication late in the second quarter gave Hill an uncontested two-handed dunk. The Pacers used George as a screener, which means Trevor Ariza is supposed to jump out for a second to slow Hill so Wall can recover. He didn't, even though Wall expected him to do so, and nobody rotated to Hill.
  • Early the third quarter, the Wizards were making a run, and the Pacers had the ball down five. They ran a pick and roll and Roy Hibbert caught the ball in a non-threatening position on the right side. And yet, Wall sort of floated to him while leaving Hill wide open in the right corner. He was neither pressuring Hibbert, nor was he still on Hill. He was in no-man's land. Hibbert made the easy pass and Hill hit the corner three to stop Washington's run.
  • A wide-open third-quarter corner three from Lance Stephenson happened because Wall and Nene switched a Hill/David West pick and roll. The Pacers swung the ball to West and EVERYONE collapsed into the middle. You make it too easy when this happens.
  • Early in the fourth quarter, Drew Gooden contested a mid-range jumper and leaked out ahead of the Pacers. The ball trickled to Martell Webster, and he had Gooden open. But instead of throwing the pass immediately, he dribbled an extra time. The ball still got to West, but it gave Ian Mahinmi time to rotate back and commit the foul. Gooden hit only one of two free throws. Two (or even possibly three) points turned into one.
  • At the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter, C.J. Watson badly picked Andre Miller's pocket. Someone has to tell Miller there's a guy behind him.
  • That George dunk late was definitely Nene's fault. He didn't step up off Hibbert because he was worried about the dump-off pass, even though Wall was correctly positioning in the passing lane.
  • The play that preceded Wall's devastating late-game turnover was a double drag screen that turned into a step-up pick for Beal. (Here's the Oklahoma City version for a better frame of reference). George properly jumped the play, but Beal still needed to try to run him into Gortat's screen. Instead, he cut away and took himself out of the play.
Am I nitpicking? Perhaps. But my point is that the Wizards were still right there despite all of these little breakdowns that add up. There's no need for Randy Wittman to make drastic gameplan changes to win Game 3. The Wizards just have to clean up these issues.

Of course, it'd also help if Wall played better. I was disappointed in his defense, and there are definitely times where he needs to be more of a scoring threat attacking the basket. But even with Wall's rough game, they had a chance to win. That's a good sign for Game 3.

Game time: 8 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN

Radio: 1500 AM