If the Wizards are going to become the ninth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 playoff deficit, they’re going to have to win at a place that has given them fits this postseason — Verizon Center.
Sounds strange, but tonight’s Game 6 against the Pacers might be at the worst possible place for the Wizards, who are down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“Quite honestly we struggle at home,” center Marcin Gortat said after Washington’s Game 5 win. “It’s going to be pressure on us because we have to win at home.”
The Wizards won just 22 games at home this season — the fewest of the eight Eastern Conference playoff qualifiers — and are 1-3 thus far in the postseason, including last Friday’s embarrassing 63-point performance and last Sunday’s squandering of a 19-point lead.
On the other hand, the Wizards captured 22 road contests this year — tied for the most among Eastern playoff squads — and have played some of their best games in these playoffs in hostile environments.
“I think we’re a lot more focused and I think it’s always great to play against another crowd,” guard Bradley Beal said.
Washington coach Randy Wittman said he didn’t make much of the disparity between his team’s play on the road and at home, and that his players shouldn’t either.
“When you’re in a battle like we are, the focus has to be on playing the way we have to play,” Wittman said. “I don’t want them looking back on anything, what might have been or what could be. The bottom line is we’re down 3-2 and we have to win two games. The guys know what they are capable of doing, whether we are at home or on the road. That has to be the main focus.”
The Wizards will have a rabid crowd of more than 20,000 on their side for Game 6, but they may have to wind up treating it like a road game in order to maintain the necessary level of intensity to avoid elimination.
“We have to keep the same mentality — we’re cornered and we have to fight our way out of that corner,” forward Trevor Ariza said. “If we keep that same intensity, that same mentality, we give ourselves a chance.”
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