Pacers seek series victory over rejuvenated Wizards
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Indiana Pacers will once again try to eliminate the Washington Wizards as the two meet Thursday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the Verizon Center.
The Wizards were on the doorstep of elimination, but dominated the Pacers in every facet of the game Tuesday night, thumping Indiana, 102-79, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Effort and physicality were lacking from the Pacers in an elimination game, while the Wizards destroyed Indiana in both categories.
Perhaps the most telling statistic of the night was on the glass. Washington outrebounded the Pacers, 62-23, and pulled down 18 offensive rebounds, which nearly matched Indiana's total.
"I thought they played harder than us (in Game 5)," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after practice Wednesday. "You're in the Elite 8, so to speak, of the NBA playoffs and if you don't play harder than the team you're playing against, you're going to lose. Period."
The Wizards duo of Marcin Gortat and John Wall were incredible Tuesday night. Gortat recorded a double-double by halftime and finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds, and Wall scored 17 of his 27 points in a third quarter that saw the Wizards build a commanding 24-point lead.
Gortat, who totaled six points over the previous two games, netted 17 on 8- of-10 shooting in the first half alone and added 11 rebounds, six on the offensive glass.
"We made a conscious effort to get the ball inside more than we did in Game 4," Wizards head coach Randy Wittman said. "(Gortat) played outstanding."
Bradley Beal finished with 18 and Trevor Ariza chipped in 10 for a Washington club that is now 5-1 on the road this postseason.
Indiana shot just 39.0 percent from the floor, with Paul George following up his 39-point Game 4 performance with a 15-point dud on 5-of-15 shooting.
Roy Hibbert regressed to the tune of four points and two rebounds, while David West led the club with 17 points. George and West were the only double-figure scorers for the Pacers.
Washington held a five-point lead quickly into the second half. The third quarter had gone Indiana's way the previous four games, but Wall made sure the momentum swung toward Washington's side.
The All-Star guard answered West's jumper with an 18-footer and fed Ariza for an easy dunk with a nifty bounce pass to ignite a quick 11-3 run.
Wall added his second and third 3-pointer of the quarter in the final minute to extend the lead even further, then capped the one-sided frame with a pair of free throws for a staggering 76-52 Washington lead.
"I was just locked in," Wall said. "Just tried to come out and play my best game."
Wall shot 6-of-8 overall in the quarter, while the Pacers went 5-of-17 from the field in getting outscored 31-14 and showing little signs of life.
Indiana, which rallied from 19 back in the second half on Sunday, kept its starters on the floor for the opening stages of the fourth quarter but gained little headway as the game was too far out of reach.
The Pacers have been good on the road during the playoffs as well, posting a 4-1 mark. They'll need to be good on Thursday, considering Washington has all the momentum.
"We've got to go get this one, by any means. We don't want to draw this one out any further than we already just did," acknowledged George. "This is a must-win. We've got to come into this game like we're down 2-3 instead of being up 3-2."
Game 7, if necessary, would be Sunday in Indianapolis. If the Pacers are victorious on Thursday, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat would instead be Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
05/15 10:37:20 ET