It has been one of the most exciting first rounds of the NBA playoffs ever and the second round is expected to be just as good. Every matchup has the possibility of going the distance (like five series did in the first round), including the Indiana and Washington series. The Washington Wizards are coming off of a dominant performance over the Bulls and the Indiana Pacers, after struggling down the stretch and in the first five games, outlasted the Hawks in seven games, who acted like a preview for the Wizards, to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs.
With all the talk of Miami sweeping and so many other series going to a decisive game seven, most have almost forgotten about Washington. After making it to the post season for the first time since 2008, and winning their first series since 2005, Washington has quietly turned it on and that was very clear after their dismantling of the Chicago Bulls. John Wall and Bradley Beal make up a dynamic scoring duo at the top for Washington that have been shooting the lights out of late, and their bigs down low were more aggressive than they had been all season during their series with the Bulls. Pair that with the team’s overall high-flying nature, ability to force turnovers, and speed to run like the Miami Heat in transition, and the Washington Wizards should pose a very difficult task for the number one seeded Pacers.
After an almost historic collapse to end the regular season (some would say it was historic) the Indiana Pacers locked up the number one seed throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs and drew the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. The collapse almost continued for the Pacers as they fell 3-2 in the series and eliminated any use of the home court they coveted to achieve all season. Luckily for them, and their frustrated fans, the Indiana Pacers from the first half of the season showed up and took care of business, winning the last two games, and previewing the kind of play they hope to sustain into the second round when they play the Washington Wizards.
This should prove to be the premiere matchup to watch in the East as Miami is expected to take care of business and dispose of the Brooklyn Nets. In a way, the teams they both beat in the first round are very similar to the other. The Pacers beat a young, fast, three-point shooting team in the Atlanta Hawks and Washington beat the big, well coached, almost classically structured team in the Chicago Bulls. The Wizards are young, fast and have two of the best shooters in the league in Wall and Beal. The only reason the Pacers didn’t fall in the first round is because their coach, Frank Vogel, coached them out of a hole. The Pacers are also a big, physical team, with fiery point guards and big forwards. Both teams are very similar to the ones they just beat, which should make this matchup one not to miss.
Washington won all three road games against the Chicago Bulls and if they continue this trend then the Pacers will be in real trouble. Indiana has been outstanding at home this year, losing only six home games all season. But they have not fared as well on the road, finished 21-20 away from Indiana. Washington had the exact same record at home as on the road (22-19) so it does not matter to them where they play. Though both teams are young, the rest that Washington got could make all the difference in this series. After a hard fought seven games, the Pacers have to turn around and continue to run with well rested Washington, whose point guards, though similar to the Hawks, are substantially better. In the end the speed and rest should prove to be too much for the Pacers, previewed in their struggles against a worse Atlanta team, and they will lose one of the first two home games simply because Washington has more gas in the tank. After the Washington Wizards take care of business at home, they will play game six in Washington, up 3-2 over the Indiana Pacers, and win the second round series, advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since the ’70’s, where they will face the Miami Heat.
Commentary by Chris Dragicevich