The Indiana Pacers are the experienced team aiming to reclaim their swagger and gain enough strength to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals to meet their much-hated rivals, the Miami Heat. On the other side are the Washington Wizards, a team that is new to the second round of the playoffs, but are just as hungry as the Pacers to prove that they belong in the conversation of Eastern Conference contenders.
In a lot of ways, these two teams are heading in opposite directions. The Pacers entered the playoffs on a month-and-a-half slump and almost got bounced out of the playoffs by the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards entered the playoffs on a tear and used their momentum to quickly wipe away the Chicago Bulls in the first round.
Now these two teams will meet up in Indianapolis battle for the right to advance to the conference finals. The Pacers have experience, a loud home crowd and an emerging superstar in Paul George on their side. The Pacers will look to slow the tempo down and grind it out. The Pacers would benefit the most by using their vaunted defense to handcuff the Wizards’ electrifying backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
The Wizards will look to speed up the game by getting Wall and Beal in the open court. Washington knows that the Pacers cannot hang with them if the tempo is high, and they will look to push the ball any chance they can to neutralize the Pacers’ big men.
The way I see it, either the Pacers can match the Wizards pound for pound for seven games, or the Wizards young can run the Pacers off of the court and make this a quick series. I do not think the Pacers have the mental toughness or the weapons to knock out the upstart Wizards, and Washington will use their underdog status as fuel to speed into the second round.
Prediction: Wizards in six