INDIANAPOLIS – Bradley Beal had a smirk on his face during practice that suggested that he knew this would happen. The adjustments the Wizards had made for Game 5 would prove fruitful, and after a 102-79 victory who could argue with him?
"It started with our defense. The fact that we were able to contested their shots, for one. They're very concerned with our fast break," Beal said. "Us guards, it's really important for us to get in there and help the bigs rebound because David West and (Roy) Hibbert are definitely a handful down there to box out. ... We do a great job rebounding and starting the break that way."
Marcin Gortat had 31 points and 16 rebounds and John Wall had his best game of the playoffs with 27 points, so Beal was just a role player with 18 points as the Wizards trimmed the series with the Indiana Pacers to 3-2. Game 6 is at Verizon Center on Thursday (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)
Just like when coach Randy Wittman moved Drew Gooden ahead of Trevor Booker in the rotation with great success, he had to make tweaks:
- The power forward, Nene or Gooden, showed strong on the pick-and-roll to slow the Pacers’ attack in the paint. George Hill and Lance Stephenson combined for 12 points on 5-for-16 shooting.
- If the Pacers are continually going to drop Stephenson, Hill and Paul George in to coverage to slow down Wall, then the Wizards are going to crash the boards with their perimeter players, too. The result was a 62-23 edge in overall rebounding with Trevor Ariza grabbing 10 rebounds, Beal eight, Wall five and Martell Webster four.
- Gortat was used as a decoy in Games 3 and 4, but the Wizards went to him early and often in this one as Nene took a step back in the attack. Making Hibbert, who only had four points and two rebounds, work was the answer. And when David West switched he was too small to contest.
It's Pacers coach Frank Vogel's move now. Will he continue to drop players into coverage to stop Wall? The Wizards appear to have found an answer to it. George, who averaged 10.7 rebounds per game in a first-round series win vs. the Atlanta Hawks, only had one rebound Tuesday. Stephenson, one of the NBA's better rebounding guards, didn't have any.