By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com
WASHINGTON – The first half in Game 3 of the Indiana-Washington series was so ugly, its tone and pace dialed all the way down to “muck,” that some people missed what might have been a turning point: From halftime to the final horn, the Pacers went on a veritable scoring spree, hanging 51 on their hosts at the Verizon Center in a 85-63 victory.
It was as if James Bond emerged from a swamp, unzipped and shed his frogman gear and strode toward the arch-villain’s mansion in full tuxedo. Except more unexpected, because that’s not how Indiana usually rolls.
With 26 points in the third quarter and 25 in the second, it was the first time in the series and only the third in the Pacers’ 10 playoff games of 2014 that they’d backed up consecutive quarters in a game of 25 points or more. That’s three times out of a possible 30. They did it in Game 5 against Atlanta in the first round (27 in the third, 30 in the fourth, despite losing) after having done it in Game 2 (27 in the second, 31 in the third).
It was also the fifth time in 10 games (or 20 chances) that Indiana scored 51 points or more in a half.
So much of the focus in this series has been on Indiana’s defense and Washington’s offense that the flip side can get overlooked. That’s fine with the Pacers, who draw their identity from stopping the other guys’ attack. With John Wall (his scratched eye should be no factor in Game 4 on Sunday) and Bradley Beal sparking the Wizards, it’s even a priority.
But when the Pacers get into some rhythm and aren’t standing around or forcing the ball through center Roy Hibbert, good things happen for them. They were 28-2 when scoring 100 points or more in the regular season, compared to 28-24 when falling short. When the ball was moving to the tune of at least 20 assists: 38-5.
In the second half of Game 3, Indiana dished for 14 of its 20 assists, shot 48.7 percent from the floor and sank five of its 10 3-point attempts. The Pacers had been 14 of 34 from the arc through the series’ first five halves.
“We have to dial into their defensive scheme,” coach Frank Vogel said. “Offensive basketball is just about taking what the defense gives you. We don’t always do that. … It’s just a matter of attacking with force and taking what the defense gives you.”
Wing Paul George said of the 51-point half: “We played with a lot of energy. We were cutting with force, moving the ball. We were screening better, reading plays better. Just using their pressure, really, against them. They want to pressure up and deny wings. We were just driving gaps and being aggressive off the dribble.”
Might that represent a breakthrough for Indiana’s offense? George wasn’t about to go that far, as his team looked at a 3-1 lead or 2-2 tie in the series.
“We want to compound stops and go from there,” he said. “If we hold an opponent to 60, 70 points, there’s not much scoring needs to be done.”