Heading to Indiana down 1-3 in the series, the Washington Wizards had their backs against the wall. The Indiana Pacers had all the momentum on their side and looked to close out the series at home. So, how did the Wizards respond? With a 23 point victory.
John Wall, who struggled all series long against Indiana, was bound to have a big game sooner rather than later, and thankfully for the Wizards, that game came tonight. Wall looked a bit hesitant at the beginning of the game, but after getting a few easy transition baskets, there was no stopping him. Once Wall made a few baskets inside, he extended his range, knocking down multiple open shots from the perimeter, which created shots for Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal off of cuts. Wall lit the Pacers up for 17 points in the third quarter and looked like the John Wall we’re all accustomed to seeing. Wall finished the game with a career playoff-high 27 points to go along side 5 rebounds and 5 assists. He remained aggressive throughout the game and didn’t hesitate to shoot when the opportunity presented itself. The Wizards have absolutely nothing to lose and John Wall is playing freely right now. If he continues to play this well going forward, and he’s certainly capable, Washington will continue to compete in this series.
Nene has been instrumental in Washington’s success in the postseason, but he hasn’t played all too well against the Pacers. He scored just 4 points in 24 minutes of action tonight, but luckily for Washington, Marcin Gortat had the game of his life tonight. Gortat finished the game with 31 (!!!) points on 13-15 shooting to go with 16 rebounds. That really happened. Washington struggled to get good shots off at certain points in the game, but Gortat skied to the basket on the offensive glass, getting multiple easy putbacks which helped the Wizards get a double-digit lead early on. Gortat outrebounded the entire Pacers team at half time.
Speaking of rebounds; Washington outrebounded the Pacers 62 to 23. The Wizards grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, compared to 19 on the defensive boards for the Pacers. They completely outhustled the Pacers from start to finish and that was obviously the difference maker tonight. Whenever the Wizards missed, it looked like they were going to get the boards. Bradley Beal, who scored 17 points, contributed with 8 of his own boards, while Trevor Ariza grabbed 10.
Everyone who played contributed in some way and the Wizards will head back home to the nation’s capital for Game 6, looking to tie the series. Marcin Gortat was a +35 tonight, and though I don’t expect him to play at a Hall-of-Fame level each game, tonight’s contest was huge for his confidence. John Wall struggled all series long, but showed up on the biggest stage of his career tonight. That’s huge.
With all of that said, Washington is still losing 2-3 and can’t slip up. They’re one of the most resilient teams in the league and their performance tonight certainly showed it.