The Washington Wizards have played 90 games overall against 30 NBA teams this season. The three in which they scored the fewest amount of points came against the same team, the Indiana Pacers. Clearly this no coincidence, right Frank Vogel?
"I think it’s 100 percent coincidence," said the smiling head coach.
Really, 100 percent?
Alas, no lie detector was available at George Washington's Smith Center where the Pacers practiced on Saturday, one day after taking a 2-1 series lead over the Wizards. Tallying the fewest points in franchise history, Washington fell 85-63. This is after scoring 66 and 73 points in two other games this season versus the Eastern Conference regular season champions.
"We get pretty locked in, stick to our principles on the defensive end," All-Star forward Paul George said to the same coincidence question. "That plan alone has been able to carry us the past couple of games against these guys."
Power forward David West essentially mirrored George's take, while offering more specifics on that defensive plan.
"We just try to be locked in. Not like we played them anymore than anyone else. We just tried to be locked in, pick up on what they like to do, what they try to do. Obviously we know with them it starts with John [Wall] out front. If we’re able to corral him, show him two bodies at a time that works for our benefit," West said.
Wall committed seven of Washington's 18 turnovers in Game 3 two days after shooting 2 of 13 from the field in Wednesday's Game 2 road loss.
"Give credit to those guys," Wall said at Wizards' practice on Saturday. "They're one of the top defensive teams for a reason. They're doing a great job with their game plan. We just have to do a better job of taking care of the ball."
Denying Washington the up-tempo pace it desires stands as an obvious reason for Indiana's defensive success.
"They try to pressure you up, try to cause to play at a franatic (sic) kind of pace," said George, nicely blending frenetic and frantic, apparently. "We did a great job of just countering that, taking care of the ball, [getting a] shot on goal. If we don’t beat ourselves, it makes it tough for an opponent."
Perhaps there is a specific reason that's less about X's and O's and more about history. Sure, players like Nene, Trevor Ariza and Andre Miller have individual playoff experience. Same with Marcin Gortat and Martell Webster. As a group, this is a new experience. Having been a postseason factor for several seasons including a run to the Eastern Conference finals last season, Indiana epitomizes a been there, done that kind of squad no matter there recent struggles.
“We know they’ve got guys over there that have played, that have got experience, but like you said, maybe not with their group," West said when asked about this angle. "Our group has been through some tough moments, some tough battles. We draw together when things get tough. Our will – we’re just trying to make the right play on both ends every single time to give us an advantage."