by Kent Sterling
Predictability is not a strength of the Indiana Pacers, and that’s a very good thing tonight. The one outcome that seemed least likely was a Pacers blowout win, so of course that is exactly what happened.
Indiana, a team of a penchant for delivering drama took charge in the second half and posted a huge 85-63 win over the oddly overhyped Washington Wizards.
ESPN’s Bill Simmons said prior to the game that he believed the Wizards would win the next three games to end the Pacers season, but he should have known better. What appears the most obvious scenario with these Pacers is always the least likely.
The rejuvenated Roy Hibbert posted his second straight solid game with 14 points and five rebounds. He even smiled a little bit after what qualifies as a circus shot for him – a reverse lay-up high off the glass.
Interestingly, for the second straight game, the Pacers equalled a franchise record for fewest offensive rebounds (four) and avoided turning the ball over in the bulk that had become customary. Ten total turnovers is a very manageable number.
At halftime, this looked like it was going to be a game that new commissioner Adam Silver would mandate all records and video evidence be destroyed. It was one of the ugliest halves of postseason basketball in NBA history, and that suited the Pacers just fine.
Paul George, David West, and the rest of the Pacers put this game in a death grip and never let go, winning the third quarter 26-12 and the fourth 25-18.
As good as Marcin Gortat was in the Wizards Game Two, he was just that horrendous tonight with four points on 2-7 shooting. Throw in John Wall’s seven turnovers, the team’s 32.9% shooting from the field, and 17 turnovers, and this was clearly not the Wizards night.
Because of the Pacers win tonight, they will come back to Indianapolis for a Game Five that will either be one of three opportunities they will have to close out the series, or be the first in a two-out-of-three with two of those games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
This game will not go into a time capsule, but in the playoffs a win is a win is a win.
So now, fans have been shown that the Pacers are the better and more poised team in the series, and that means expectations will be raised. If we have learned nothing else over the past three months, it’s that lofty expectations with this group is a ridiculous self-indulgence.
What happens in Game Four is anyone’s guess. To think Washington will assume it’s correct place in the Eastern Conference pecking order and wilt before the #1 seed is lunacy, and to think the Pacers are ready to play like one for three straight games is even crazier.
If you have to look for a trend, the Wizards scored 73 points or less three times in the 2013-2014 season, including the postseason. All three of those games were against the Pacers. The 63 points was the franchise record low for the Wizards in postseason – by 12 points – and the lowest in any game in franchise history.
This series is far from over, just as it would have been had tonight’s result been reversed. Washington is going to keep showing up and competing, and if the Pacers allow themselves a moment of relaxation all of the well earned optimism could be flushed into the sewers that carry false hopes and dreams to the sea of despair.
Sure the Wizards completely unraveled and imploded late in the game, but all that happened tonight is that the Pacers got one win closer to the four they need to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. To believe anything more than that happened tonight leads to nightmarish disappointment.