The ides of March. It is the date of the Pacers' come-from-behind overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons, and it marks the last time the Blue and Gold managed to win three straight games. Maybe it was for this reason that Paul George hesitated to fully proclaim his team as being "back" after Game 3; instead, opting for the more pensive, "Gradually, we're taking baby steps." In the same line of thought, Frank Vogel asserted, "It's a good win but we're in no way satisfied."
While it would be a huge mistake for the Pacers to, as Roy Hibbert once termed it, take "one step forward, three steps back," for the first time this postseason, Indiana, with a 2-1 edge, is actually leading their opponent in a playoff series and the pressure to find answers has shifted onto the Washington Wizards.
Decidedly more positive vibe at Pacers practice. Lot of talk about being locked in on defense the last two games.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) May 10, 2014
With Roy Hibbert and consistency finally getting reacquainted, John Wall is now the All-Star that the NBA community is calling to return to form.
While next to no one actually expects the Wizards' All-Star to repeat his Game 3 performance (15 points, 7 turnovers, and a plus/minus of -18), it is noteworthy that, thus far in the series, George Hill (averaging 13.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1 turnover) has outdone John Wall in nearly every statistical category (11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1 steal, and 3 turnovers).
With his contributions as a key cog oftentimes being left unsung, Hill has come alive on both sides of the ball during this series. As Hill and his teammates controlled Washington's pace, limited passing lanes, ran shooters off the three-point line, earned key deflections, contested every shot, and built a wall against Wall in transition, it brought to mind something Paul George revealed following the Pacers' impressive victory over the Wizards in January. Then, holding the Wizards to just 66 points on 32.1% shooting, PG told the media present after the game that Frank Vogel had made the team watch clips of Wall's 40+ point performance from the prior season in order to further emphasize the need to slow the lightning quick All-Star guard.
Whether Vogel continued with this practice following Game 1 has not been divulged; nevertheless, it is clear as Bullets Forever explains here, that the Pacers' stingy defense has honed in on Wall and made him second-guess what decisions to make in the open floor.
Not unlike the Pacers did with Roy Hibbert during his, albeit, much more prolonged slump, Wall's teammates fully expect him to bounce back after a poor performance. After the game Trevor Ariza noted, "He's a smart player he knows what to do."
With Wall looking to return to form and the Wizards trying to even up the series 2-2 on their home floor, the Pacers need to heed the advice of George Hill prior to Game 4, "To take the lead in the series won't mean anything if we don't come out with a sense of urgency Sunday."
For more on the Pacers' defense and their mission to win three straight games for the first time since March 15, check out the links. Also, following Game 4, make sure to tune into Fox Sports 1 at 11p.m. ET for Paul George's Mother's Day Feature, for more on that hop here.