The Indiana Pacers defeated the Washington Wizards 85-63 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Friday night to take a 2-1 series lead.
In one of the more futile offensive performances in recent playoff history, the Pacers limited the Wizards to 32.9 percent shooting from the field. The Wizards also failed to score more than 20 points in a single quarter.
After a sluggish first half, the Pacers were buoyed by a 26-point outburst in the third quarter. During that span, Indiana outscored the Wizards by 14 points.
"It’s a good win but we’re in no way satisfied," Pacers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters following the win, according to The Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner.
The Wizards, who shot 25 percent (4-of-16) from three and 52.4 percent (11-of-21) from the free-throw line, mustered a woeful 33 points in the first half. The Pacers weren't exactly prolific either, scoring 34 points over the game's first two quarters.
Simply put, it was a vintage defensive display by a Pacers team that desperately needed to string together impressive efforts in consecutive games.
Players are graded on a conventional A to F scale, with each contributor starting at a C and moving up or down based on the quality of his performance.
However, it's important to note that role players and reserves are graded on a curve due to their smaller allotment of minutes.
Key Players: Indiana Pacers
Paul George, Small Forward
After two relative offensive stinkers in Games 1 and 2, the Pacers were looking for Paul George to make a strong, efficient statement in Game 3.
And while four of the Pacers' five starters scored in the first quarter, George's shot selection wasn't aided by the stagnancy we've come to expect from Vogel's offense.
That said, George kept at it. The first player into double figures (10 points on 3-of-8 shooting at the four-minute mark in the first half), George wouldn't let efficiency derail his quest to get buckets.
It wasn't the breakout performance we've been hoping for, but George did well to compile 23 points (6-of-15 shooting), eight rebounds, four assists and three steals all while containing Bradley Beal.
Roy Hibbert, Center
After a monster 28-point Game 2 effort, it was time to see if Roy Hibbert could duplicate his success on the road in hostile territory.
Early on, signs weren't encouraging. Not only was the Pacers offense looking more balanced, but Hibbert was being out-rebounded by Trevor Ariza consistently, which helped the Wizards obtain several second-chance opportunities.
He did, however, make the most of his low-post touches, scoring 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, and even cracked some smiles and flashed a bit of swagger after the Pacers took a double-digit lead in the third quarter.
And while he was by no means dominant on the glass, Hibbert protected the rim nicely, blocking three shots while pulling down five rebounds.
Recent playoff history considered, Hibbert was steady. And that's all the Pacers can ask for.
Lance Stephenson, Shooting Guard
The big problem for Lance Stephenson in the second round has been finding an offensive niche.
Born Ready hasn't looked like his usual aggressive self attacking the rim, and that trend persisted on Friday.
Stephenson opened the game 1-for-5 from the field, settling for mid-range jumpers more often than not.
That number would eventually balloon to 4-of-13 from the field as Stephenson finished with nine points, seven rebounds and tied a team-high with five assists in 35 minutes.
In order for Indiana to establish any sort of offensive continuity, Stephenson must penetrate the lane off the dribble at a higher clip.
David West, Power Forward
So long as Indiana's offense remains an idle mess, David West will continue to be marginalized to a degree.
A lack of off-ball movement has stifled West's efficiency in the pick-and-roll, and his production didn't improve tremendously after a nine-point showing in Game 2.
The good news is the plus-minus numbers reflect positively on West's presence on the floor.
In addition to scoring 12 points and tallying three rebounds, West posted a plus-minus rating of plus-27, which was tops among all Indiana players.
He also dished out four assists, which represented an increase from his season average of 2.8 per night.
George Hill, Point Guard
We lauded George Hill's ability to provide the Pacers offense with a dynamic dimension Wednesday night, but he couldn't push the ball in a similar manner in what amounted to an offensive pitcher's duel.
The last Pacers starter into the scoring column, Hill went scoreless over his first 15 minutes before dropping in a three to give Indiana a five-point lead toward the end of the first half.
But a funny thing happened. During a third quarter when the Pacers outscored the opposition by 14, Hill started to emerge in all facets of the game.
In a dominant defensive showing by the Pacers, Hill did well to finish with nine points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.
C.J. Watson, Sixth Man
More of the same. C.J. Watson hasn't resembled anything close to an offensive spark coming off the bench, so there was no reason to expect otherwise.
In 12 minutes, Watson was good for just a single point on 0-of-3 shooting. The Pacers were also one point worse with Watson on the floor in Game 3.
Indiana's bench has been frustratingly bad against the Wizards, and the narrative's not going to be changing anytime soon.
Evan Turner reminded us far too often Friday why he's considered one of the bigger lottery busts in recent memory, frustrating with his questionable decision-making and poor shot selection.
Outside of Turner's four-point (2-of-6 shooting) dud, Luis Scola contributed a solid 11 points while Ian Mahinmi pitched in two points and seven boards.
Key Players: Washington Wizards
John Wall, Point Guard
Entering Friday night, John Wall was shooting a ghastly 6-of-27 from the floor in two games against the Pacers.
Even worse? According to ESPN Stats & Info, Wall was shooting 24 percent outside of the restricted area in the postseason prior to Game 3.
And although Wall opened 2-of-3 from the floor and had a bit more pep in his step, the Pacers did a nice job of restricting his ability to create in space.
A tough conversion on a step-back jumper as the first-quarter horn sounded provided a brief highlight, but that was as good as things would get.
Scoring in the half court continued to represent a major struggle for Wall, but his team-high six assists helped offset some of the ill-effects of a 15-point night that saw him commit a game-high seven turnovers.
Bradley Beal, Shooting Guard
During a first half in which the Wizards shot 31.7 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three, Beal managed just three points on 1-of-8 shooting.
His pick-and-roll passing looked shoddy throughout too, which didn't help mask what amounted to an uncharacteristic off-night.
In 40 minutes, Beal totaled a team-high 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting (1-of-5 from three). He added three rebounds, two assists and two blocks but failed to provide a jolt via his usually dependable jump-shooting until it was too late.
Nene, Power Forward
The Wizards' leading shot-taker in the first half, Nene didn't look like his usual sturdy self as Washington's offense collapsed over the game's first 24 minutes.
Nene opened 2-of-9 from the field and continued to flash an inconsistent stroke at the free-throw line.
In his worst performance of the series to date, Nene shot 3-of-14 from the field and 2-of-6 from the line while generating eight points and pulling down three rebounds.
Marcin Gortat, Center
According to STATS LLC, Marcin Gortat is the only remaining Eastern Conference player averaging a double-double in the playoffs.
In need of that consistency once again, Gortat made his biggest impact in the game's opening stages with a fierce attitude on the glass. Five first-quarter rebounds represented half of the Pacers' team production in that same span, although the offense was slow to develop.
A nine-rebound (all on the defensive glass) first half set the tone for a final line anchored by the Polish big's 10 boards to go with a paltry four points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Trevor Ariza, Small Forward
We've focused on Ariza's three-point shooting extensively throughout the first two games of this series, but it's his defense on George that really turned heads in Games 1 and 2.
According to NBA.com, Ariza entered Friday night having limited George to seven points on 3-of-10 shooting in 21:04 of matchup time during the series' first two games.
But ignore the defense for a moment.
Ariza was an animal on the glass during an ugly first quarter and pulled down four offensive boards in his first seven minutes.
Not only that, but Ariza was the Wizards' only source of sustainable offense in the first quarter, scoring nine points over the game's first 12 minutes.
The only Wizards starter who earned above-average marks, Ariza provided dependability to the tune of a double-double consisting of 12 points (4-of-8 shooting, 2-of-6 from three) and a game-high 15 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.
Drew Gooden, Sixth Man
Drew Gooden's become a fan favorite thanks to his hustle off the bench, and he reaffirmed that notion once again in Game 3.
While some reserves are known as generators of instant offense, Gooden can be considered the rebounding equivalent, inhaling any errant shots that enter his vicinity.
In 17 minutes, Gooden pulled down six rebounds (two offensive) and scored one point while posting a plus-minus rating of plus-two. He was the only Wizards player to record a positive plus-minus rating.
Andre Miller (plus-four) and Martell Webster (plus-six) both posted positive plus-minus ratings in the first half, although their statistical output didn't quite reflect similar effectiveness.
After an encouraging start, Miller and Webster couldn't muster much offensive success, combining to score two points on a night when Randy Wittman deferred to his starters.
What's Up Next?
Game 4 will tip off at 8 p.m. ET Sunday from Verizon Center before the series shifts back to Indiana. Game 5 will get underway from Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday. Both games will be broadcast on TNT.
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