What Happened: The Washington Wizards shrugged off a slow start and a big first half from Roy Hibbert to take a 45-43 halftime lead on the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
What Went Well for the Wizards: For all that went wrong for the Wizards at the game’s outset, from a slow start to Nene going down with an injury, Washington showed its resilience, closing the first quarter on a 10-4 run to knot the score at 23 before eventually taking the lead. Marcin Gortat raised his intensity level to throw down a dunk and corral four rebounds to continue Washington’s strong play on the boards. Nene returned early in the second quarter and didn’t appear to be bothered much by his sprained ankle. The Wizards didn’t lose much ground without Nene, though, thanks to the improved play of their bench. Gooden, Andre Miller and Martell Webster all scored and Washington’s halfcourt offense greatly improved in the second quarter. After missing nine of their first 11 shots, the Wizards finished the half shooting 47.6 percent, with 20 buckets on 11 assists.
What Went Wrong for the Wizards: Roy Hibbert scored (twice!) to start the game, igniting the Pacers to a 7-0 run at the outset as he displayed a much more aggressive offensive approach in the post. Then, just as the Wizards were making a comeback, Nene appeared to twist his left ankle after awkwardly stepping on the foot of Pacers guard George Hill. With Nene in the locker room and the Wizards cold from the field, they failed to hold the lead entering the second quarter for the first time in these playoffs. And even when Nene returned, the Wizards struggled in the paint defensively, giving up 20 interior points and too often sending the Pacers to the free-throw line, where they hit all eight of their attempts.
What to Watch for in Second Half: Hibbert played better in the first half than he’s played in any full game during the playoffs. But his success has moved the ball away from the Pacers typical offensive stars in Paul George (six points), David West (four) and Lance Stephenson (scoreless). It’ll be interesting to see if the Wizards continue to let Hibbert get his and dare the Pacers to believe that that’s enough to pull out a win.