The Washington Wizards stole one on the road yet found themselves unable to get things going back home Friday in a franchise low 85-63 loss to the Indiana Pacers. It's been that kind of postseason for Washington, who defeated the Chicago Bulls in the First Round with a 75-69, 4-1 finish. But if the Wizards allow Pacers wing Paul George to finish with 23 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals Sunday night, consider this series turned.
George had only 11 points in Game 2, a win for Indiana, and 18 the game prior, Washington's lone win of the series so far. He had 11 by halftime Friday night and put together an all-around video game-like performance, much like his averages against the Atlantic Hawks during their First Round series. The Wizards did their work in Game 1, and Game 2, but they can't let George get going in Game 4.
There's also the matter of John Wall's 7 turnovers on the night. He is, by far, having a much tougher time getting Washington's offense going against Indiana, having averaged 18.8 points against the Bulls after 5 games, and only 11.3 points against the Pacers after 3 games. He's also 0-for-8 from three-point in the series. The turnovers, however, are not the norm for Wall, who committed only 6 turnovers combined in his last five games (including the first two against Indiana).
The one area Washington continues to be strong is rebounding, having beat Indiana in each of their three games. Trevor Ariza did some great early work for the poor shooting Wizards Friday night, but he and the team managed to knock down only 4 three-pointers on the night. With Marcin Gortat and Nene struggling to produce inside, the Wizards poor outside shooting left Washington in quite a few stagnant stretches.
The key to Sunday's game will be for Washington to get back to their roots: Gortat pick n' roll, crazy mode Nene (who can also nail his mid jumpers), and the can't-miss Ariza. On the defensive end, Ariza and company need to study the first game and see how they guarded George, and they also need to put a hand in David West's face. The Wizards are not going to tie the series 2-2 if they allow George to flourish as he did in Game 3, and the addition of West, who looked Nene-like with his jumper in Game 3, proved much more damaging than his Game 2 bounce back following a forgettable Game 1 performance.
Washington will defend home court Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET (TNT).