April 4, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Indiana Pacers shooting guard Leandro Barbosa (28) shoots the ball as Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) defends in the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
If there was going to be any letdown or signs of fatigue against the suddenly familiar Washington Wizards following their comeback last night, the Pacers did a tremendous job masking it in the first quarter, exploding on the offensive end to total up 37 points. Danny Granger led the way for a Pacers offense that was firing on all cylinders in the first twelve minutes, the team going 15-17 from the field with Granger leading the way with 13 points.
However, for all of the good things Indiana did offensively, they were unable to do defensively as a familiar struggle came to light to help dim all of the first quarter positives. Despite shooting as well as they did, the Pacers could only take a 9 point first quarter lead because Jordan Crawford had 16 of his own in the first quarter as the Wziards dominated the offensive glass and managed to get all of their shots.
The game came back down to earth in the second quarter as the same struggles the team had defensively hadn't improved while the offensive began to plummet. The Wizards closed the gape with an 8-0 run, in a quarter the Pacers could only muster up 15 points, just two in the final four minutes, as Washington cut the lead to one at the break. For Indiana, it was an upsetting second quarter, especially given how much they controlled the first quarter, but their effort to put the Wizards away early weren't going as planned, and it came back to haunt them in the second.
The Pacers continued to struggle out of the half defensively, allowing Washington to hang around as Crawford was simply unconscious from the field. The hot shooting Pacers returned in the third to lead a hot shooting Pacers team that continued to trade baskets with the Wizards, but a pair of defensive blocks from Hibbert and Paul George led to more Danny Granger buckets that helped to keep Washington at bay long enough for George to drop five quick points to get the lead up to nine. A strong close to the third helped push the Pacers into a double figure lead.
Indiana's second unit, led in a big way by Leandro Barbosa with 7 quick points, really put the hammer down in the fourth quarter, pushing the lead up to 19 points on a Dahntay Jones statement jam as a hard fought game turned into a lopsided affair, helping the Pacers improve to 33 wins, guaranteeing they won't see a losing season for the sixth straight year. There were a lot of concerns early in this game in regards to shooting since much like last night, the Wizards hung around because they were hitting jumpers as Indiana hung up a lot of their points inside or from the line.
In addition, they continue to have troubles cleaning up rebounds, switching constantly on defense to get them away from the board, allowing the Wizards to grab 11. But while they're creating bad habits on the defensive end, they're starting to get the hang of their jobs on the offensive end. Ball movement has been one of the keys to Indiana's success, and getting 27 assists on 44 FGs to reach the century mark for the fourth straight game, giving Indiana an element they can lean on as they prep for the playoffs, holding onto third in the East.
After the jump, DC's quality game:
- Darren Collison may have been the best player tonight, scoring a rare double double tonight with 17 points and 11 assists. Collison played like a true NBA point guard tonight, setting up his teammates in great position, but showing his offensive wares when it was necessary, going 7-8 from the field.
- Danny Granger led the way early even though the Pacers completely went away from Danny for whatever reason in the second quarter. But it was his play again in the third quarter that helped lead the way for the Pacers to finally put the game back at arm's length in the third quarter. Danny went 8-12 shooting, another lights out shooting effort from a player who got plenty of help tonight.
- Leandro Barbosa led the bench tonight, and following last night's performance, one can only hope he's entering a solid stretch that can be sustained, though it's hard to tell regarding his style of play. But he was very good in the fourth quarter to really keep Washington away from any kind of run that might've given them life.
It's not like the Pacers are in a must-win situation, but slipping up tonight would've been a frustrating step back for this team following their great comebacks against New York and Houston. They responded with an early push and were able to find a second win to put Washington away. From here, the Pacers, who are playing some of their best basketball, even if it is largely coming in stretches, will get a huge test when they welcome the Oklahoma City Thunder to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Elsewhere on the scoreboard, Philadelphia was blown out by Toronto at home, really hampering their chances at sneaking up and snatching the Atlantic Division title away from Boston. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks slaughtered the Rose-less Chicago Bulls to pull within half a game of the Orlando Magic for the third seed.