Preview: Wizards battle Pacers in Indy Friday night

The Pacers (13-12) have been one of the most surprising teams in the NBA this season. Despite being built around a young core, they’ve managed to win more than half of their games thus far. Similar to the Wizards (11-14), they currently find themselves on a bit of a slide. Both of these teams will be looking to get things back on track heading into the weekend when they clash tonight. Here’s all the information you need.

WHERE: Gainbridge Fieldhouse (Indianapolis, IN)
WHEN: 7:00 pm ET
TV: NBC Sports Washington
RADIO: The Team 980 & The Wizards App

WIZARDS:
Will Barton (left foot soreness — questionable)
Bradley Beal (right hamstring strain — out)
Rui Hachimura (right ankle soreness — out)
Kristaps Porzingis (left ankle sprain — questionable)
Delon Wright (right hamstring strain — out)

PACERS:
Chris Duarte (left ankle sprain — out)
Isaiah Jackson (right knee soreness — questionable)
James Johnson (right elbow sprain — questionable)
Daniel Theis (right knee surgery — out)
Myles Turner (right hamstring soreness — questionable)

The Pacers and Wizards have already played each other twice this season, splitting the series 1-1. A common theme in both games? The Pacers’ guards are dictating the flow of the contest and wreaking havoc on the perimeter.

Tyrese Haliburton has established himself as one of the best point guards in the league, scoring whenever he wants and dishing out a league-high 11 assists per game while barely turning the ball over. With his length and skill, he’s a tough cover, and playing alongside Buddy Hield doesn’t make it any easier on opposing defenses. Hield is one of the league’s most prolific shooters, jacking up nearly 10 attempts per game from deep and connecting on a high percentage of those.

Slowing down Haliburton and Hield will be Pivotal for the Wizards’ defense. Those are two guys that can run teams out of the gym in a hurry.

CREATING HALFCOURT OFFENSE

Without Bradley Beal in the lineup, the Wizards have struggled at times to create a halfcourt offense. That’s understandable. Beal is one of the most dynamic perimeter scorers in the league, and his ability to put the ball in the hoop from all three levels of the floor opens up looks for teammates.

On Wednesday evening in Chicago, when the Wizards’ halfcourt offense got stuck in a rut, there were a couple of things they relied on to help get them out of it. For starters, Corey Kispert’s presence on the court was integral. The opposing defense has to honor his shooting, meaning there’s a defender glued to him at all times. That opens up driving lanes for guys like Deni Avdija and Kyle Kuzma. The second thing that does is create cutting opportunities for Kispert if Avdija and Kuzma get cut off at the rim.

Kispert has shown a penchant for cutting to the rim at the perfect time and finishing efficiently when given the opportunity.

Another way the Wizards can help out their offense is by generating transition looks. It’s a lot easier to score in the open court when guys are cross-matched than it is in the half court against a set defense. The best way to generate transition opportunities? Force turnovers.

Against the Bulls on Wednesday, the Wizards did a great job of getting steals and turning those into transition looks. That’s what they’ll need to do again Tonight in Indianapolis. They’ll need to turn defense into offense. With the length they have in Avdija, Kuzma, Kristaps Porzingis, and Daniel Gafford, this should be no problem. The Wizards piled up 18 STOCKS (steals + blocks) last game, and they can do that again if they play their cards right.

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