On the verge of elimination from the playoffs, the Washington Wizards brought out their best basketball to humiliate the Indiana Pacers on their own home court, making it a 2-3 series thanks to a 102-79 win that wasn’t even that close, beginning with the dominance of Marcin Gortat and backed up by John Wall Finally showing up when he’s needed the most.
Gortat scored 31 points to go with 16 rebounds as he had no problem running all over Roy Hibbert, David West and Ian Manhimi in a pathetic display from the Pacers on both ends of the floor. Gortat didn’t even need any help from his frontcourt partners: Nene scored only 4 points which meant more minutes for Drew Gooden, but he didn’t score one, providing more defense and rebounding as the Pacers looked bad, tired and apathetic (or pathetic, you be the judge) no matter what lineup was on the court.
The Wizards started well and simply got better as the game went along. They held the Pacers to only 52 points through the first three quarters, as they did everything possible to avoid getting stuck in half court sets. They kept finding open shots that early on didn’t sink, but teams that get good shots usually make them. John Wall scored 27 points, as 21 of them came on jump shots. He was rarely contested.
Wall might not have led the scoring, but he and Bradley Beal kept setting the pace to be one the Wizards are comfortable with. Every possession led to the Pacers getting and hustling back on defense slower than before. Roy Hibbert isn’t built to chase around centers, but the Wizards didn’t even try using tactics of drawing him away from the basket. Gortat was almost flawless in the post against him and ended up grabbing 7 offensive rebounds.
The Wizards didn’t get and didn’t need too much help from their bench players. Randy Wittman went with his starters the entire game except for Nene, until the lead reached 30 points and he realized it was time to send in the garbage-time squad. Bradley Beal scored 18 points and Trevor Ariza helped out with 10 points, but it was also the Wizards’ defense, barely allowing the predictable Indiana Pacers to get open shots, that made it possible for Washington to make this game about running and not trying to make their way through the Pacers’ lines of defense.
Everyone was looking at the 62-23 differential in rebounding. You can talk about adjustments and schemes all you want, but when there is such a disparity hustle and effort are the number one reasons. The Wizards didn’t miss a lot (50% from the field), but they allowed only four offensive rebounds and grabbed 18 of their own, one less than the Pacers’ total defensive rebounds. You can’t win games when you allow teams so many second chances.
The Wizards continue to look better on the road. Maybe there’s some sense of urgency there that doesn’t follow them when they’re playing at home (5-1 on the road, 1-3 at home in the playoffs so far), maybe feeling a bit too comfortable. With every loss meaning going home and beginning their summer vacation, maybe this time the sense of dread and desperation will follow them to unlikely places.