If you thought Trevor Ariza was substantially older than 28 years old, you aren’t alone in the world. It feels like eons ago that the forward was an integral part of the Los Angeles Lakers’ run at NBA Championships. He is just 28 years old, though. However, Ariza’s displaying a ton of veteran savvy for a young Washington Wizards team in the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
As Washington kicked off their second-round series with the Indiana Pacers on Monday night with a victory, it was Ariza that arguably came up the biggest for the Wizards. In 37 minutes, the forward put up 22 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal while shooting 7-10 from the field and a resounding 6-6 from beyond-the-arc.
Over the Wizards’ first-round victory over the Chicago Bulls and in this game one of their second-round series, Ariza has been an absolute monster. Playing 38.7 minutes per game, the veteran has put up 16.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per contest while shooting 52.2 percent from the floor and an unconscious 55.9 percent from long-range.
There’s no question that Ariza’s ability to provide offense on the perimeter is going to be huge for the Wizards as the postseason rolls on, especially when paired with a point guard with the slashing ability of John Wall. However, it’s Ariza’s veteran presence and playoff-experience that is going to be even more valuable for this team.
Throughout much of the regular season, this Wizards team has been frustrating to watch. They obviously have a ton of talent, but their youth often seemed to get in the way of them getting over the hump. Thus far in the postseason, though, they’ve continually stepped up in big moments and have looked far more mature. A big reason for that is Ariza leading this team at pivotal moments, whether that means having a big game, keeping them steady in high-pressure situations, or just knocking down an important shot.
While you have to wonder if the Pacers are going to get their act together in this series, the Wizards will have to stay the course if they want to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. For that to happen, though, they’re going to need guys to step up and make their youth and inexperience less obvious. As things stand now, Ariza is just the guy to make sure that’s what the Wizards do.