The Pacers earned the number 1 seed in the Conference despite having a mediocre second half of the season. They were matched up against the 8 seed Atlanta Hawks who made the playoffs despite finishing the season with a well below 500 winning percentage. After the team looked horrible in a game 5 loss that left them facing elimination they were forced to win game 6 on the road in order to get the series back to Indiana for a game 7 and they were able to do so largely based on their team defense and the all around play of Paul George. The final score in game 7 is not indicative of the game itself, the Pacers got out to an early lead and never looked back as they survived and advanced.
The Wizards were matched up with the Bulls in the opening round and were considered the underdog despite being the 6 seed playing against a 3 seed. While the Pacers looked like a team struggling with expectations, the Wizards played like a loose group of young players that were determined to make a statement. Point Guard John Wall was exceptional on both ends of the floor while wings Trevor Ariza and sharpshooter Bradley Beal were equally as proficient. The Bulls were depleted for most of the season with injury and they were worn down by the athleticism and speed of the younger/healthier Wizards in a 4-1 series win.
Point Guard- John Wall vs. George Hill
Many teams questioned whether Wall was worthy of the maximum contract awarded to him by the Wizards in the offseason. He proved all of those doubters wrong with an exceptional season that showed his improved outside shot and ability to impact the game on the defensive end. Hill has all of the tools, however he often gets lost in the flow and can go missing for long stretches of the game.
Advantage - Washington
Shooting Guard - Bradley Beal vs. Lance Stephenson
Stephenson has had his maturity and commitment level called out by fans and teammates throughout the season. However his play on the court is at a career high level and he makes the Pacers virtually unbeatable when he is at his best. Beal is a confident all around player who is a deadly outside shooter.
Advantage - Even
Small Forward - Paul George vs. Trevor Ariza
George is one of the top 10 players in the NBA and may be top 5. His versatility on both ends of the floor make him a matchup nightmare. Ariza is having arguably his best season and is one of the few players in the league that could match up with George physically.
Advantage - Pacers
Power Forward - David West vs. Nene
West is a veteran who is the teams vocal leader and a strong interior defender. He can also hit from the outside forcing defenses to play him on the perimeter. Nene is injury prone, however whenever healthy he is a force to be reckoned with, capable of scoring 20+ points on any night
Advantage - Even
Center- Roy Hibbert vs. Marcin Gortat
Hibbert was the star of the teams playoff run last year and has been the exact opposite so far this post season. He got on track in game 7 with 5 blocked shots and a strong start. Gortat is a finesse big man who can score inside and out. He may prove to be a tough cover for Hibbert
Advantage - Pacers
Bench - The Pacers have a wide variety of bodies to use. Luis Scola is a veteran scorer who can give strong backup big man minutes. Evan Turner has not played well since being acquired but is a talented combo guard. The Wizards have two veterans with plenty of experience off their bench. Andre Miller remains productive and consistent as a backup point guard and Drew Gooden is a versatile big man off the bench.
This has the potential to be a great series. The teams matchup well. The difference maker will be finding out if the Pacers have found their from yet. If they struggle like they did in the first round they wont be able to come back against this young and hungry Wizards team.
Series Prediction- Pacers in 6
Game 1 pick
Take the Pacers -4
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