Pacers-Wizards Game 4 Preview: Are we back in business?

Has the Gold Swagger actually returned to the Pacers? (USATSI)
Has the Gold Swagger actually returned to the Pacers? (USATSI)

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Previewing Game 4 of the Pacers-Wizards Eastern Conference semifinal series.

1. Where We Are: In what seems like almost a miraculous turn of events, it looks like the Pacers may be whole again. They struggled through the first round against a wounded, sub-.500 8-seed (Atlanta) and escaped with a 4-3 series victory. Then they got handled by the Wizards in Game 1 of the second round and looked like a practice squad against this more formidable playoff opponents. But they managed to follow this troublesome performance up with getting a huge scoring night from Roy Hibbert and squeaked out a Game 2 victory in Indiana.

They still looked to be in trouble, except in a Game 3 (85-63) victory we saw a bit of that Blue Collar, Gold Swagger slogan they love to put on towels, t-shirts, and anything else they can use to market the team. The Wizards were completely shut down in Game 3, shooting only 32.9 percent from the field. Trevor Arizan and John Wall managed to shoot well from the field, but Wall had seven turnovers in the process. The Pacers had their typical third quarter dominance that we're used to seeing when they are at their best.

2. The Big Number: 11.3. Ever since this Pacers team has was put together, they've struggled to hang onto the ball. They don't have guys who are great at dribble penetration, whether it's in isolation or in the pick-and-roll. Youy can trap them easily and force a tough pass because they don't have a dominant ball handler. They're also pretty atrocious as a team at making post-entry passes. It's caused them to be one of the worst teams in the NBA in turnover rate. They were the second-worst in the NBA last season, turning the ball over 16.2 percent of the time. This season, they were the sixth-worst with a 15.8 percent turnover rate.

Somehow in this series, even with the ball pressure of Trevor Ariza and John Wall, the Pacers have kept the ball from being given to the opponents. If the Wizards want the ball, they have to secure the rebound. The Pacers have dropped their turnover rate to 11.3 percent, after turning it over 16.2 percent of the time against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. Most importantly, George Hill has turned the ball over only three times in this series so far, which has helped keep the Wizards' defense from forcing mistakes. 

3. Key Adjustment: Avoid the middle and take back the arc. The Wizards were suffocated in Game 3 because the Pacers took away the paint and the 3-point line. Indiana is one of the best teams in the league at defending the three, even if they didn't look like it against Atlanta. The Wizards need to start utilizing the pick-and-roll better, possibly by using the adjustment the Miami Heat used against Indiana in the 2012 playoffs and starting the PnR much higher on the court. If you give Wall a headstart, his speed can obliterate the integrity of the interior defense. Once they take the paint, the Pacers will have to suck in and it will allow Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal to have open looks on the perimeter. What they can't do is keep settling for midrange shots.

4. The Big Story: Do you believe in the turnaround or have the Pacers lost any chance of being trustworthy? Hibbert had 28 points in Game 2 and followed that up with an efficient 14 points in Game 3. The Pacers' defense started to right itself in Game 2 and showed its prowess in Game 3. Has the tide turned in favor of the Pacers or are they still the fragile bunch we've seen since February? It won't be up to the Pacers to prove they've righted the ship; it will be up to the Wizards to put the pressure on Indiana to see if they're still going to break when things get tough.

5. The Facts: 8 p.m. ET. John Wall has a facial laceration but he's expected to play. The Pacers don't have any known significant injuries.

CBS Sports Writer

Zach Harper likes basketball. Some would even say he loves it. He's also an enthusiast for everything Ricky Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Nic Cage, and has seen the movie Gigli almost three times. He's been... Full Bio

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