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StraightHoops Is The #1 Basketball Blog On The Web - Hoops Every Day
May 6, 2014

By Anthony J. Fredella

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana - ​​It was like deja vu all over again. The Indiana Pacers were playing in Game 1 of a playoff series at home against a lower seed it was favored to beat. At the same time the Washington Wizards were playing on the road against a higher seed it was supposed to roll over for. But just like in their respective opening games in the prior round, the Wizards came to play, while the Pacers looked absolutely lost.

The Wizards took a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semi-finals last night behind spirited performances from Bradley Beal (25 pts, 7 rebs, 7 asts), Marcin Gortat (12 pts, 15 rebs, 3 blks), Drew Gooden (12 pts, 13 rebs) and Trevor Ariza (22 pts, 6 rebs). On the other side, the Pacers were hampered by poor shooting, flat defense and a complete lack of rebounding. David West, Paul George, Roy Hibbert, and Lance Stephenson combined to shoot just 14-47 (29.8%). Indy gave up 17 offensive rebounds to the Wizards and starting Pacers center Hibbert played 18 minutes, committed 5 fouls, and failed to score a single point or grab a single rebound. Following a decent performance in a Game 7 win over the Atlanta Hawks, some thought Hibbert was finally awake and back to form. Apparently not after last night’s pathetic display. Whether or not Coach Frank Vogel continues to play Hibbert for the remainder of the series will be an issue that will be second guessed the entire offseason, should the Wizards knock the Pacers off. However, going small may not even be an option this series with the way the Wizards’ bigs have been playing in these playoffs.

But Hibbert is not all to blame. The Pacers’ shooting performance last night was atrocious. Paul George was just 4-17, David West was 6-15 and Lance Stephenson shot 4-13. Even worse was the Pacers’ collective effort, or lack thereof, on the defensive glass. The Wizards combined for 17 offensive rebounds, with Gooden grabbing 7 and Gortat adding 6 of his own. That’s 17 extra possession for a team that is not only talented, but is also playing with a renewed sense of confidence. Bradley Beal is turning into a star two-guard right before our very eyes, averaging 20.7 ppg this post-season in 6 games vs. the Bulls and Pacers. And Beal, teaming with John Wall, make up one of the best young backcourts in the game. When you combine those two with the outstanding play of their frontcourt mates, Nene Hilario, Gortat, Ariza and Gooden, you get a very, very dangerous team.

The Pacers were able to survive their poor performance in the opening round because they were playing the Hawks, a team that won just 38 games this season and backed into the final playoff position because of the terrible Eastern Conference this season. The Wizards are not the Hawks. The Wizards were 33-19 against the East this season, the Wizards have a talented basketball team, and the Wizards are here to win. They do not care that they are playing the #1 seed. They’ve already stolen home court advantage and, if the Pacers decide to wake up, the Wizards are still going to be an extremely tough out. If the Pacers keep up last night’s effort, however, this series will be over in 5 games. Mark my words.