What Happened: The Washington Wizards staved off elimination by routing the Indiana Pacers, 102-79, behind Marcin Gortat’s 31 points along with 27 from John Wall. The series shifts back to Verizon Center for Thursday’s Game 6 with the Pacers leading three games to two.
What Went Well for the Wizards: For the first time since Game 1 (and just as they’ve done in all of their postseaosn wins), the Wizards held the lead after one quarter of play. Indiana responded with a 10-0 run but the Wizards caught fire behind Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal to build a 15-3 spurt just before haltime. Gortat had a Hibbert-like turnaround, shaking off his Game 4 benching to record 31 points and a playoff career-high 16 rebounds. Gortat’s aggressive play led the Wizards’ dominance on the glass by a 62-23 margin, including 18 offensive boards. At one point in the second half, Gortat had more rebounds than the Pacers had as a team. John Wall set a playoff career high with 27 points, including 17 in the third quarter. After having his confidence questioned over the last few days, the Wizards All-Star guard was brimming with confidence as he went 11-for-20 from the field. Wall’s third-quarter explosion helped the Wizards outscore the Pacers in that period for the first time this series. Washington was proficient from the foul line, too, going 15-for-19 to overcome a cold night from three-point territory.
What Went Wrong for the Wizards: Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers. Wall and the Wizards struggled to control the ball on drives to the basket and appeared out of sorts at times, leading to 12 first-half miscues. In the first half, the Wizards relied on their jump shooting during spurts, despite going just 5-for-18 from three-point land and having an on-fire Gortat inside. But these issues soon gave way after halftime, when the Wizards had just five of their 17 turnovers and got hot from the field behind Wall and Gortat. Though they didn’t need much help on this night, the Wizards bench followed up its Game 4 explosion by scoring just 12 points.
What to Watch For in Game 6: After putting together their best performance of the playoffs, the Wizards will need a similar effort Thursday. For whatever reason, the Wizards have struggled at home during the postseason. But with the confidence built from Tuesday’s win, Washington’s passion should be on high in front of its home crowd on Thursday for Game 6. The Wizards dominance on a night when Gortat shined and Nene struggled (four points) shows how critical the performance of their bigs (it was Nene in the Chicago series) is to the team’s success.