All season long, the point guard/center battery has been the Wizards' barometer. When John Wall is playing well, he's in complete control of the pace of the game, hitting enough jumpers to keep defense honest and getting everyone good looks. When Marcin Gortat is playing well, he's flipping screens to get everyone open, diving to the rim for easy layups and keeping balls alive on the offensive glass.
They both were off their game in the Wizards' three losses. Wall's typical emotion was muted as he was overwhelmed by the Pacers' stifling defense. He was passing up open shots, refusing to drive and failing to push the ball enough. Gortat was being manhandled by a resurgent Roy Hibbert and wasn't able to find any room rolling to the basket because the Pacers were pinching in help from the wings. Gortat sat the entire fourth quarter of Game 4; Wall maybe deserved to.
If the Wizards were going to keep their season alive, they needed that battery to step forward. And step forward they did. Gortat dominated the first half and Wall found his shot in the third quarter, carrying the Wizards to a stunning 102-79 victory to cut Indiana's lead to 3-2. Wall had 27 points; Gortat had an amazing 31 points and 16 rebounds.
Gortat went off first. The Wizards made it a point to run the very first play of the game for him, much like the Pacers tried to get Hibbert going in Game 2. From there, the Polish Machine Hammer was fully engaged. He carved out fantastic rebounding position all night, allowing the Wizards to completely dominate the offensive glass. (Allow me to bold this: the Wizards outrebounded the Pacers 62-23. SIXTY TWO TO TWENTY THREE!) He hit his left-handed hooks. He protected the rim. Only a barrage of dumb turnovers kept this game from getting out of hand in the first half.
It eventually got out of hand, though, because Wall joined the party. Early in the third quarter, he hit a tough floater over Hibbert, and that seemed to get his confidence back. Suddenly, he was stepping into threes and other jump shots. Suddenly, he was whipping cross-court passes to Beal for wide-open threes and wrap-around dishes to Gortat on the secondary break. Most notably: George Hill, who had lots of success with Wall as his primary defender, went just 1-8, with the one coming after Wall sat in the fourth quarter. It was the playoff breakout we've waited to see for 10 games.
Everything flows when the battery is working. It didn't even matter that Nene didn't do much and the AARP Unit was a disaster after starring in Game 4. With Gortat and Wall on their game, the Wizards flourished.
Now, the series is well within reach again. Don't bury the Wizards just yet.