No close out, Pacers raise doubts
The Indiana Pacers suffered their second-largest home playoff loss in franchise history, falling 102-79 to Washington Wizards Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Instead of closing out the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Pacers opened more doubts about a team that has struggled throughout the postseason. The series goes back to Washington, D.C. for game six Thursday with the Pacers leading 3-games-to-2.
“We didn’t come out with good enough intent to win the ball game and close a team out,” said Pacers forward Paul George, who scored 15 points on just 5-of-15 shooting. “It wasn’t a great game for me shooting-wise. It was just one of those nights, but I think we just got outplayed as a team.”
No one outplayed the Pacers more than Wizards center Marcin Gortat, who matched his career-high with 31 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Gortat shot 13-of-15. Perhaps his performance was inspired by a Pacers fan, who shouted out the first few words of the Polish national anthem during pregame warm ups. Gortat finished the line, then played the game of his career.
“After you score the first few baskets you feel good, you feel confident,” said Gortat. “It was just fun to be in the game. Everything works. You feel immortal.”
“He played outstanding,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman, whose team is 5-1 on the road this postseason. “31 and 16 and to defend (Roy) Hibbert at the other end like he did, he was fantastic.”
After three consecutive strong games and Pacers victories, Pacers center Roy Hibbert contributed just four points and two rebounds. The Wizards dominated the Pacers, especially on the glass. The Pacers set a playoff franchise-low with rebounds while allowing a playoff franchise record 62 rebounds.
“They just played at a different level than we did all night, and it showed up on the glass,” said David West, who led the Pacers with 17 points and 6 rebounds. “I just don’t know where we were tonight.”
John Wall added 27 points for the Wizards, who blew the game open in the third quarter and led at one point by 30 points.
“Coach (Wittman) told me to go out there and be super aggressive and he didn’t care if I had 20 turnovers,” said Wall, who committed just five turnovers. “I tried to do that. I also stayed locked in on defense and I thought that got my offense going.”
The Pacers missed out on an opportunity to finish the series at home, avoid another road trip and enjoy a few days rest before the Eastern Conference Finals.
“Clearly we didn’t match their desperation and their physicality throughout the game and obviously it was costly,” said Pacers head coach Frank Vogel. “We’re still up 3-2. It’s one loss whether you lose by 20-something or lose by one. It’s one loss. We’ve got to go back and respond for game six.”