The Washington Wizards defeated the Chicago Bulls 4-1 Tuesday and will tackle the Indiana Pacers tonight in the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. Led by Nene, who has averaged a career best 17.8 points and 3.3 assists this postseason, the well rested Wizards will look to steal one on the road from the tired, yet hungry, Pacers core.
Washington went 1-2 against Indiana over the regular season, and those two losses were both lopsided road losses. Late November the Wizards fell 93-73, then mid January Washington fell again, 93-66. Nene didn't play in the first one (achilles), and neither did Bradley Beal (right leg), but Washington didn't have many excuses in the second one, in which the team went a dreadful 26-for-81 from the field (32.1%). The Pacers shot 44.6%, and out rebounded Washington 61-41.
In Washington's 91-78 home win, the rebounding total ended up much closer, at 48-43, Indiana. It's unlikely the Wizards will trump the Pacers in that category as long as David West and Roy Hibbert stay healthy, but Washington proved late March that their defense could put a stop to Indiana's firepower.
The key for Washington heading into Indiana will be to control the paint, which is easier said than done. Pacers small forward Paul George set a franchise Playoffs series record with his 75 rebounds (68 defensive) in the first round, and he has averaged a video game-like 23.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 2.4 steals this postseason, while shooting 45.8% from the field and 40.4% from beyond the three-point arc. Stopping both he and Hibbert will be Washington's main concerns.
On the other side of the court, Nene needs to continue his career best postseason play. He absolutely toppled Joakim Noah, the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year, who looked frustrated the entire series as the Bulls went down in five. The length of Hibbert and size of Indiana in general will prove a very tough challenge for Washington as they try to get points in the paint, but if Nene can continue his sharp shooting from the field then the Pacers will have no choice but to stretch their defense. If that happens, John Wall and company will have a field day.
Tonight's game will air on TNT at 7:00 p.m. ET.
MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS WINS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams won 2014 Rookie of the Year Monday, with a historic season in which the former Syracuse Orangeman led all rookies in points, assists, and rebounds, becoming the third player to do so since 1950-51. Imagine what he could do on Barsoom.