WASHINGTON — For the final 11⁄2 months of the regular season, and the first eight games of the playoffs, the Indiana Pacers’ suddenly sloppy play raised all sorts of questions.
Why did Paul George and Co. go from one of the NBA’s top teams to a mediocre one?
How did coach Frank Vogel’s team lose its way?
Could the Pacers right things in time?
“Sometimes teams go through tough stretches. We just went through ours toward the end of the year. But we were playing (great) basketball in the beginning of the year. Normally it’s the complete opposite — going through struggles early and figuring it out,” guard George Hill said. “Now we’re starting to get back, and things are starting to click the right way. And we’re starting to get our mojo back.”
It all starts with defense, the single most important reason the Pacers own a 2-1 lead over the Washington Wizards heading into tonight’s Game 4 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.
After allowing John Wall and the Wizards to take Game 1 with 102 points, the Pacers have won two in a row by limiting Washington to 82 in Game 2, then a franchise-record-low 63 in Game 3.
“That’s what we want to be,” Vogel said. “We had great regular-season success by being a dominant defensive team — limiting the 3-ball, keeping teams out of transition, limiting teams to one shot, being a dominant defensive rebounding team — and that’s who our identity is.”
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