Quick Links

Takeaways from Wizards' win over Pacers to take season series

Takeaways from Wizards' win over Pacers to take season series

Another season series is in the books for the Wizards after Thursday’s 111-98 win at the Indiana Pacers as they head into the All-Star break.

Otto Porter opened red hot from long range as he made all four of his three-point attempts in the first quarter en route to shooting 6-for-10 overall (game-high 25 points, eight rebounds). He was followed by Markieff Morris (21 points, seven rebounds), Bradley Beal (19 points), Marcin Gortat (12 points, seven rebounds) and John Wall posted his 35th double-double (20 points, 12 assists).

The Wizards (34-21) won the season series 3-1. They’ve also won the series with the Milwaukee Bucks 3-1, lead the Charlotte Hornets 2-0, the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks at 2-1.

Paul George (17 points) was limited to 6-for-19 shooting as he labored through the second game of a back-to-back for Indiana (29-28). Myles Turner (17 points, nine rebounds) was their best scorer with Rodney Stuckey (12 points) and Al Jefferson (12 points) being sparks off the bench.

--The difference in the outcome was three-point shooting. The Wizards, who held the Pacers to 4-for-21 shooting from three in the last meeting, kept them to 4-for-18 in this one. Conversely, they made 15 of 29 threes to tie a season-high.

[RELATED: John Wall hits and-1 layup off top of glass vs. Pacers]

--Porter’s hot hand forced the Pacers to shift George, who usually covers Beal, onto the small forward. Porter responded by beating him off the bounce and getting into the lane with floaters that were converted. It also allowed the Wizards to get Beal some relief and not have to crossmatch to get a bigger defender on George. Beal made 4 of 7 threes. There were too many fires to extinguish.

--The bench’s inability to defend well vs. the Pacers was a problem in the last meeting. Then it was a 15-for-23 second quarter, 65.2% shooting, that allowed them to flip a 33-27 deficit into a 47-38 lead over Washington. The Wizards could’ve ended this one early but repeated droughts offensively and blown defensive assignments forced the starters back in. A 13-2 run trimmed the Wizards’ lead to 97-90 with 6:42 left. The Pacers had a 39-14 edge in bench scoring, but defensively is where the group seemed to lack more than offense. To score better, they have to play better defensively.

--The Wizards had all five starters in double figures with three minutes left in the third quarter for an NBA-leading 22nd time. Wall also had his ninth consecutive double-double by then. Among guards, no one in the conference is anywhere close to Wall with total double-doubles.

--Clearly more comfortable in the offense, this was the most assertive that Ian Mahinmi (five points, four rebounds in 12 minutes) has been in playing in his fourth consecutive game. He put the ball on the floor in and went at Al Jefferson successfully in the paint. Mahinmi made both of his field-goal attempts.

--Jeff Teague (six points) can be a matchup problem for the Wizards if he's allowed to get into the paint. Wall was significantly better and didn't gamble. In the last six quarters vs. Washington, Teague has scored eight points. 

[RELATED: VIDEO: Otto Porter hits buzzer-beater after shot clock malfunction]

Quick Links

Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap outline simple way they have stopped Wizards' Morris and Gortat

Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap outline simple way they have stopped Wizards' Morris and Gortat

Markieff Morris may have taken exception with Paul Millsap's comment after Game 1 that the Hawks were more focused on John Wall and Bradley Beal, instead of Morris and his fellow Wizards' big man Marcin Gortat. In the three games since, however, the Hawks have done a solid job against the Wizards' bigs, and Morris in particular.

At Tuesday's practice, both Millsap and Howard explained how they think that method is working. If they worry about the Wizards' backcourt, they feel they can affect the rest of the team from there.

"We've actually just been trying to focus on Wall and Beal," Millsap said. "I guess taking them out of the game not letting them get everyone else involved, I think that's what has helped us out. Those guys really feed off of John's penetration and his ability to pass the basketball. I think that the guards have done a great job of trying to limit that."

The Hawks are second among all playoff teams with 194 paint points compared to the Wizards' 158. Much of that falls on Gortat and Morris, the Wizards' starting big men who are tasked with battling Millsap and Howard on both ends of the floor.

Morris had a terrific first game of the series with 21 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Since, he's averaged just 7.0 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 29.6 percent from the field. Morris has been in foul trouble in each of those games, but that is a considerable drop-off. Gortat has continued to rebound well, he had 18 in Game 4, but after scoring 14 points in each of the first two games he's been limited to two points in each of the last two.

[RELATED: Mahinmi optimistic he can return by end of Wizards-Hawks series]

Howard was much more detailed than Millsap in going through exactly what the Hawks have been able to eliminate from Wall that is throwing off both Gortat and Morris.

"It's just reading John Wall and what he likes to do when he gets in the paint. After playing a team a couple of times you get the rhythm of what they want to accomplish on the offensive end. With John when he gets into the paint, as soon as that big helps he's looking to make that quick pass to Gortat or to whoever the big is in the game," Howard said.

"John was doing an excellent job in the first two games of finding March late, to where he could just catch it and finish. We've been trying to take that away and do a good job on the pick-and-roll with John. Force [Wall] to take tough shots. He's been making a lot of tough shots, but we'd rather have that than Marcin getting those easy buckets and getting into a rhythm... It's the same thing [with Morris]. He got a lot of his points off John Wall getting to the basket and making plays. Coming off the pick-and-roll, he's finding Morris. He got a spin-out lob in the first game. It's just taking away those easy buckets and making guys work for shots."

Howard believes cutting off the pick-and-roll and easy assists for Wall makes him uncomfortable. Continue to take away easy looks for Wall and eventually he will start to struggle, too. For Beal, it's about forcing him out of his catch-and-shoot rhythm.

"That's the key in the playoffs," Howard said. "Bradley, he's tough to guard out on the perimeter. He shoots the ball well. He gets his shots with ease. But it's about taking away his [spots] and making him take tough shots. After a while, when you play in a series, your legs start to get up under you. Your arms start to get tired. Those same shots and those same looks that you got in the first game are a little bit different now. We've just gotta make sure those guys work for shots. When they've gotta work extra hard for shots and you're playing a seven-game series, after the first couple of games then your legs are shot and you have to find other ways to score."

Wall is averaging 28.8 points on 50.7 percent shooting in this series, while Beal is at 24.3 points on 41.8 percent. They are the straws that stir the Wizards' drink and will remain the Hawks' focus until the former makes them pay for it.

[RELATED: Millsap on not talking trash, why he made the 'MMA' comment]

Quick Links

Paul Millsap on letting his play speak for itself, why he made the 'MMA' comment about Wizards

Paul Millsap on letting his play speak for itself, why he made the 'MMA' comment about Wizards

One day after the Hawks' Game 1 loss, Paul Millsap said he was intent on not letting the trash talk by Markieff Morris and the Wizards get to him, that he wanted to let his play speak for itself. Since, he has appeared to accomplish that. There have been some words exchanged in the media, but mainly from the Wizards and meanwhile Millsap has played well while Morris has struggled while dealing with foul trouble.

It's now a 2-2 series and Millsap feels he is doing just what he set out to do.

"They key to doing that is just shutting the hell up. That's it," he said about letting a back-and-forth through the media affect his game. "It's all about being a professional, man. We all know what are the right things to say. We know the politically correct answers. We know what not to say. It's just being a professional, getting out there to answer questions and do your job. That's how I see it."

Millsap has learned throughout his 10-year NBA career that sometimes it's wise to just be careful about what you say publicly. It's not just about giving opponents bulletin board material. He knows that in the playoffs each team pays more attention to what the other team says and gameplans can sometimes be exposed through the media.

[RELATED: Wizards vs. Hawks Game 5: How and what to watch]

Dwight Howard has a similar take. He has instructed some of the younger players on the team to stay out of it.

"I'm not a trash talker. A lot of the times I see no need to talk trash. I know a lot of people do it to hype themselves up. Some people just like to talk trash," Howard said. "I just feel like when you win, that's the best way to shut people up. I tell these guys all the time, the way we talk trash is by winning instead of fighting back and forth and getting into a war of words with teams."

The trash talking between teams, though, can be fun for fans and Millsap knows that. He thinks it's actually a good thing at the end of the day, what his comments about MMA and what Morris has said about him since have done to draw attention to the Wizards vs. Hawks first round matchup.

"It does [help]. I think especially to our series. Like, they had us on NBATV a lot. I think it added a little light to our series. It's interesting. As a basketball fan, I know it's good to see that. It makes it more interesting and intriguing. It sucks that I've gotta be in the middle of it. It's not going to escape me, so the better that you embrace it, the better off you are," he said.

Morris and Millsap got into it during Game 1 and it was at the podium afterwards that Millsap said the Wizards "were playing MMA." That set off several days of great quotes from both teams, including Morris' retort that the Wizards were preparing for "double MMA" in Game 2.

Millsap was asked after Tuesday's practice what message he was trying to send with the MMA line. It turns out there were no complexities behind it.

"I said it because I was in a chokehold on the ground. That's why I said it," he said with a laugh.

[RELATED: Mahinmi optimistic he can return by end of Wizards-Hawks series]