Pacers, Wizards tip off Eastern semis in Indy
(SportsNetwork.com) - Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals jumps up Monday night when the Indiana Pacers host the Washington Wizards at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The top-seeded Pacers advanced after a tough seven-game series against the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round. Washington, the fifth seed in the East, moved on with a five-game series victory over the Chicago Bulls.
Paul George led the Pacers to victory Saturday night. He had 30 points and 11 rebounds, shot 11-for-23 from the field and was lucky just to be on the floor for the decisive game.
George took a few steps onto the court during a skirmish between teammate George Hill and the Hawks' Mike Scott in Game 6. Traditionally, that has warranted a suspension, but a slight change in the language of the rule probably kept George from missing the critical contest.
"This was a long series," said the Indiana All-Star. "We're happy to get over this hump and get ready for the next task, which is preparing for the Wizards."
Roy Hibbert, the Pacers' other All-Star this season, had his best game of the series on Saturday. He played sparingly in the later games of the series, but scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked five shots in Game 7.
"You always feel for guys on your team that are struggling," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "You do what you can to push them or encourage them, challenge them when they need to. It's like your family, it's like your children. You want the best for them. (It was) very gratifying to stay with him and then to see him step up the way he did."
The Wizards have been home since Tuesday, which is a pretty long wait for a group that doesn't have a ton of postseason experience.
"It is what it is," said Washington coach Randy Wittman. "Whether you like rest, or whether you want to keep going, we don't have a choice."
The Wizards held the Bulls to an average of 90 points a game while being led by their dynamic young backcourt of All-Star John Wall and sharp-shooter Bradley Beal.
Against Chicago, the league's best defensive unit in terms of scoring, Wall averaged 18.8 points and 6.8 assists. Beal led the Wizards with 19.8 points on 45 percent shooting from long range.
"The main thing is to focus in and know what this team is capable of," said Wall after dispatching the Bulls.
Defense is Indiana's calling card. The Pacers finished second in the NBA in opponents' scoring during the regular season and first in opponents' field- goal percentage.
The Wizards weren't shabby on the defensive side of the ball either. They tied for eighth in the league in fewest points allowed and actually rank first in that category so far during the postseason.
The two teams have never met in the postseason and Indiana has owned this series in recent history. The Pacers won two of three this season against Washington, both at home, but the dominance extends far past the 2013-14 campaign. Indiana has won 11 of the last 13 matchups and 15 of the last 19.
The Wizards won't be intimidated playing in Indiana, despite being winless in their last 12 trips there, a span dating back to April 2007. Washington took all three road contests in the series against the Bulls.
Game 2 will be Wednesday night in Indianapolis.
05/05 10:37:56 ET