Feeling of deja vu as the Indiana Pacers once again drop game 1 of a series, this time in the conference semifinals, facing the red hot Washington Wizards, coming away with a 102-96 road victory, carried by the excellent shooting of Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza.
The Wizards surprised by taking the Bulls home in only five games in the previous round. The Pacers offer a different challenge, but the team with the best record in the Eastern conference is on a Jeckyll and Hyde routine for quite some time and especially in the postseason, once again showing the uglier side of their game which is easily spotted by seeing Roy Hibbert putting on another embarrassing performance with 0 points and 1 rebounds, getting David West to call him out in hope of somehow galvanizing him.
Maybe the prospect of facing a tough duo in the paint wasn’t too appealing to the somewhat lazy looking Hibbert, as Nene (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Marcin Gortat (12 points, 15 rebounds, 6 of them on offense) made things very difficult in the paint. We only saw 26 points in the paint from the Wizards who were scorching from the outside, but their 17 offensive rebounds as Drew Gooden added 7 more from the bench were another proof of their dominance in almost every aspect during the game.
The Pacers had their moments of good enough defense to create some runs, but too little and few in between long spurts of the same bad and slow offense, while their defense, relying so heavily on Hibbert being an All-Star and not the scrub player he’s been for most of these playoffs, was the inferior unit in the game. The Wizards aren’t a lockdown team, but they get stops like John Wall blocking Paul George on the fast break as the highlight of those defensive plays.
Beal had 25 points on 8-of-18 from the field to lead the Wizards to their first win at this stage in 32 years. They are now 4-0 on the road in the postseason, and they’ve been handling two defense-first kind of teams very well with their ability to dominate both in the paint and make the most of it on the outside. Trevor Ariza was 6-of-6 from beyond the arc, only the third player in NBA history with six shots or more from three and not a single miss, joining Robert Horry and Peja Stojakovic. He finished with 22 points.
This wasn’t a great game for John Wall in terms of scoring, but he as at his best when he plays the drive and dish point guard. He had 13 points on only 4-of-14 from the field but he did add 9 assists. Andre Miller didn’t provide too much fireworks as the guy who backed him up. Drew Gooden was the only one from the Washington bench to put in a noteworthy performance, but the starting five did so well there was no need for anything else.
The Pacers will try and bounce back. There are no promises and frankly, it’s time to stop shortchanging the Wizards as a legitimate threat in the East, and realizing that Roy Hibbert is dragging his team down when he plays like this. The Hawks gave them opportunities to get back in the series which the Pacers took advantage of, but the Wizards are a better team, and are less inclined to make the same kind of mistakes.