Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Game Three of the second round Eastern Conference series matching the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards was notable for many reasons. Not only was it huge for the Pacers, who regained control of the series with an 85-63 road victory. But, it was the first time the Pacers really looked like THE PACERS! Meaning, the team that was having such a great time being dominant in the first half of the regular season when they went 33-7.
They were having fun. They were playing hard. They were working together as a unit instead of as a bunch of individuals. Most importantly, they CARED. Even when they were “surviving” in the first round against Atlanta, they never had this vibe in any of their four victories. They didn’t have it even in Game Two of this series when their 86-82 victory to pull even was keyed by poor shot choices from the Wizards in the final minutes of action. THIS is a team that could at least make Miami work to win the East this year (as they have in the past).
What went right? It starts with defense:
*Indiana held Washington to 35% shooting inside the arc, protecting the rim with a passion.
*Indiana held Washington to 25% outside the arc, denying open looks as often as possible.
*Indiana held Nene Hilario to 3 of 14 shooting, and Bradley Beal to 6 of 19 shooting, clearly making those dangerous threats a point of emphasis.
*Indiana forced 17 turnovers, which is a very high total in a low tempo game.
Sometimes you’ll see defenses force turnovers but allow a high inside percentage (common in the West this year). Sometimes you’ll see defenses not bother with attempted takeaways because they’re building a shell around the rim. Indiana had that shell, but still took the ball away anyway! They played like the Seattle Seahawks do in football, and we know how that worked out a few months ago.
The offense took a step forward in a few areas. Though, in honesty, scoring 85 points isn’t exactly an explosion. They still shot poorly inside the arc (41%), and took awhile to put the game away even though they were holding the Wizards below 20 points in all four quarters. What was most clear was in the area of turnovers.
Turnovers by Game vs. Atlanta: 15-16-13-10-12-13-17
Turnovers by Game vs. Washington: 13-7-9
That’s two straight games in single digits, after generally rotating around an axis of 13 in the prior eight outings. Interesting that those two stellar ball protection efforts line up with the rejuvenation of Roy Hibbert (which lines up with the banishment of Andrew Bynum!). Indiana can win with mediocre shooting if they cut down on the 0-point possessions that are automatic with turnovers. This is a big development in terms of their championship hopes.
Any one great game can be a fluke. But, this is two great games in a row for Hibbert…who many saw as the heaviest anvil during the worst of times. And, the volume of teamwork that was on display is something that was certainly lacking during the prolonged slump. Handicappers should pay VERY close attention to how things play out in Sunday’s Game Four. Indiana will either announce that they’re back in the Eastern Conference championship discussion. Or, they’ll make it clear that Friday Night was just a one-game party and their team chemistry is still as fragile as ever.
Let’s see how Las Vegas sees the game at the moment…
Las Vegas Line: Washington by 4.5, total of 180.5
Oddsmakers are still giving Washington credit for home court, a double bounce-back, and what they accomplished vs. Chicago in the prior round. Indiana is NOT getting much credit for what they pulled off Friday. If this were “championship caliber” Indiana, that price would be Washington -1 or -2. So, the market is expressing skepticism about Hibbert’s new glow.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his sources to get the right read on this game and Game Four of Oklahoma City/LA Clippers. You can purchase a huge MOTHER’S DAY PARLAY right here at the website Sunday before the Western Conference game tips off at 3:30 p.m. ET (though, try to take care of business in the morning so you can get some great baseball!) If you have any questions, call us in the office Sunday morning at 1-888-777-4155.
Back with you Monday to preview the more compelling Game Four of Brooklyn/Miami or San Antonio/Portland. Big game previews will continue throughout May and June in the NBA Playoffs. We’ll be expanding baseball coverage again when the NBA schedule permits.
Always check in DAILY for great handicapping information here in the NOTEBOOK. Then, link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!