The Indiana Pacers needed just 85 points to take a 2-1 series lead over the Washington Wizards on Friday. Why? Their suffocating defense that was prominent throughout much of the season returned, as the Wizards managed just 63 points — tied for the fourth-lowest playoff mark over the past 60 years.
Washington shot 32 percent from the field, missed 12 of their 16 3-point attempts, and turned the ball over 18 times. They didn’t reach 20 points in any quarter and scored just 12 points in the third.
Washington’s Bradley Beal and Nene, who were huge in their Game 1 victory, combined to go 9-of-33 from the floor for just 24 points. John Wall was the only player that provided a pulse to Washington’s offense, yet he coughed the ball up 7 times. It was, simply, a defensive masterpiece by the Pacers — something they haven’t been able to accomplish in a while.
Paul George led the way for the Pacers with 23 points. He was just 6-of-15 from the floor, but got to the line 10 times and missed just one. His defense on Beal was superb, making it ever more baffling why Frank Vogel doesn’t just start every series with George defending the opposition’s top scoring threat on the perimeter.
Roy Hibbert flashed the same aggressiveness and energy that fueled his Game 2 performance, as he scored 14 points in the win. His rim protection also returned to early-season form, blocking three shots and deterring numerous others.
The Pacers’ defense can erase their issues on the offensive end when it’s as good as it was in Game 3, but we haven’t seen that consistent level for a few months now.
Maybe Friday’s effort was the beginning of the return for the league’s stingiest defense.
Brandon Curry is the Pacers Beat Writer at the Indy Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Pacers and has full media access. Follow us on Twitter, @BCurryNBA and @IndySportsRep
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