Game 5 of the Wizards-Pacers series was one of the most inspiring games of the season. With their backs against the wall and having been left for dead by the national media, the Washington Wizards rallied to lay the smack down on Pacers.
Now, they're home, and they lost both of their games at the Verizon Center. They're still one loss from going fishing. This should be a good one.
Where and when? Tip off is at 8 p.m. at the Verizon Center. You can watch on ESPN or listen on 99.1 FM.
Can Washington keep their momentum going? Ok, so here's the thing: The Wizards aren't going to outrebound the Pacers by 30+ boards again. I mean, hopefully they do, but it's not going to happen. Here are a few key individual performances from game five and whether it's realistic to expect something in the same ball park tonight.
Marcin Gortat, 31 points, 16 rebounds, 13 of 15 shooting. Not gonna happen again. Gortat had two points and three boards in the previous game so his performance should fall somewhere in the middle tonight. Washington getting Roy Hibbert into foul trouble early on could be very useful, as none of the other Pacer bigs can bang with Gortat. Washington desperately needs points against an elite defense like Indiana's and Gortat's scoring punch could be the deciding factor tonight if John Wall and Bradley Beal can't get going.
Trevor Ariza, 10 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, held Paul George to 15 points. This could go either way. If Ariza can stick to George and get free for a few more corner threes, he could make up for any problems Beal and Wall have with putting the ball in the hole. Even if he doesn't, he's so good at moving the ball to cutters at the rim and shooters on the perimeter that getting another five high-value assists might be even more valuable than upping his own scoring, assuming that the defense is more or less sticking to him.
John Wall, 27 points, five rebounds, five assists. Probably not going to happen. Indiana is good at preventing perimeter players from getting all the way to the basket and that hurts Wall more than anyone else on the team. He could continue to put up points if his jumper is falling but his assists and playmaking capabilities are far more valuable to this team, especially considering the inability of his running mates to create their own offense in the halfcourt.
Bradley Beal, 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists, solid defense. Beal could very easily do this again and may score even more than he did in 5 five. Look for instances in which he gets switched onto George on defense. Yes, the bigger George can post up Beal at will, but the rest of the Pacers' offense stagnates when this happens and it's not a very efficient way to score. Golden State did similar stuff with Harrison Barnes this year -- using him as a post up option against smaller guards -- and even though it looked good the casual fan, it played a key role in the Warriors punching below their weight class on offense throughout the year.
The key for the Wizards tonight is putting up points. Indiana won't smoke them on offense unless they simply get lucky or the Wizards implode, so this game is going to be a race to 85 or 90 points. If Washington can make this happen, and this seemed inconceivable at times during the series, they should be good as gold. If not, well, get ready to read a bunch of season retrospectives tomorrow.
Who's going to win? My head says Washington due to home court advantage (it has to pay off eventually, right?) and a renewed sense of confidence. My gut says Indiana, and it's solely because we've seen this movie before and it never ends well for Washington. It's a new era in Washington, though, and John Wall and Bradley Beal are winners. My prediction is that there's going to be a Game 7. Go Wizards!!!!!