In a soon to be published spread on the Washington Wizards featured in Sports Illustrated, John Wall tells the periodical that he believes his team underachieved during the regular season:
"We could've easily been a 55-win team. We let 15, 20 games go into overtime or everbody was not coming out and playing right away. And it all starts with me: Some nights I didn't bring it all."
On a night where the Wizards shot just 32.9% from the field, 25% from three, and committed 17 turnovers, it would be really easy to explain away their poor play by simply claiming that they did not "come out" and "play right away." Truth be told, the Pacers' opponent did not exactly "bring it" in Game 3. After all, Indiana's defense, as stout (dare to say phenomenal) as it was, cannot simply scare the Wizards into shooting a woeful 11-of-21 from the free throw line.
All of that being said, for the first time in a long time, the Blue and Gold brought the fight to their opponent. They won all of the hustle plays down the stretch, they (eventually) made a commitment to move themselves and the basketball, and they mucked-up their opponent's offense in a way that was reminiscent of the team that started the season 40-12.
With the team that hails from the nation's capital tallying only 63 points for the game, Indiana limited the Wizards to their worst scoring performance in franchise history.
As such, it was a far cry from an offensive masterpiece. In Game 2 of the Spurs-Blazers series, San Antonio poured in 70 points in the first half. In this particular contest, the Wizards and Pacers combined scoring total at the break was just 67. With regard to the ugly nature of the game, David West told ESPN's Mike Wallace, "Listen, we don't worry about if we're looking good for TV. The other teams can do that, can fill that void with fancy basketball."
There were very few style points, but when the Pacers play to their strengths it is very rarely pretty. As Paul George said following the game, "Defense is what we hang our hats on so if you're a guy that loves defense, we're you're team."
Yes, during Game 3, the Pacers finally began to look a whole lot more like Indiana's team that beat Washington 93-66 on January 10th and a whole lot less like the team that got thumped in D.C. 91-78 on March 28th. Recording 20 assists on 31 made field goals, perhaps the style of play that caused the "selfish dudes" to falter the last time they graced the Verizon Center will, at long last, be a thing of the past. When asked by ESPN's Mike Wallace if the Pacers had their old personality back, Paul George responded, "It feels like it. Gradually, we're taking baby steps."
Pensively, Roy Hibbert remarked following his break-out Game 2 performance that, "Consistency hasn't been my biggest friend this year." Well, the Big Dawg and consistency may not be besties; but, after his Game 3 performance (scoring 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and blocking 3 shots), it is probably safe to say that they are, at least, once again acquaintances.
Taking just a slim 2-1 series lead in the playoffs and failing to string to together multiple wins since mid-March, it would be remiss for the Pacers to become complacent with their performance headed into Game 4. Like Frank Vogel said, "It's a good win but we're in no way satisfied."