The Indiana Pacers defeated the Washington Wizards, 86-82, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Wednesday night behind a game-high 28 points, nine rebounds and two blocks from Roy Hibbert. The series is now tied 1-1.
On an evening when the Pacers shot 44.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three, Hibbert broke out of his funk in style by shooting 10-of-13 from the field and a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line.
The Pacers finished with four double-figure scorers and started to impose their will during a third quarter that saw Frank Vogel's squad outscore the Wizards by six. In the final period, the Pacers held on by playing the Wizards to an 18-18 draw.
"I think we know we've gotta be at our best to beat them, especially heading into their building," Vogel said following the win, according to the Pacers' official Twitter account.
Washington's offense failed to match its Game 1 productivity, shooting just 45 percent from the field and 23.8 percent (5-of-21) from beyond the arc.
In addition, the Wizards shot a meager 5-of-12 from the charity stripe while the Pacers made 18 of their 21 freebies.
Players are graded on a conventional A to F scale, with each contributor starting at a C and moving up or down based on the quality of his performance.
However, it's important to note that role players and reserves are graded on a curve due to their smaller allotment of minutes.
Key Players: Indiana Pacers
Paul George, Small Forward
Paul George made a grand total of four shots in Game 1 but sought to regain vintage form in the jump shooting department by boasting an aggressive attitude early.
Two turnovers in the first quarter were costly, but George drilled three of his five attempts from the floor to finish the frame with six points.
But even though the Pacers shot 46 percent from the field in the first half and received efficient contributions from George, they trailed by two at the half. In other words, even when things are going right for the Pacers, they can't seem to parlay a handful of positives into a solid lead.
In the end, George's production tapered off as he tallied 11 points (5-of-13 shooting), six rebounds, four assists and two steals in what amounted to a second straight disappointing performance.
David West, Power Forward
Hibbert's offensive revival stole the show Wednesday night, but the Pacers could have undoubtedly used more consistency from David West, who finished with nine points (3-of-8 shooting), six rebounds and three turnovers in 37 minutes.
The problem that arose was the Pacers continually deferred to Hibbert down in the post, which stripped touches from West and the wings.
It was nice to see Hibbert finally get going, but the Pacers captured the No. 1 seed by thriving under the tenets of a balanced offense. And with Hibbert dominating touches, West and George too often faded into the background.
Lance Stephenson, Shooting Guard
During a first half when Indiana's offense appeared to finally be clicking, Lance Stephenson was nowhere to be found.
An 0-of-5 start didn't inspire confidence that Stephenson would respond positively after shooting 30.8 percent in Game 1, especially because four of his first five shots came from outside the paint.
What the Pacers need from Stephenson is to play with a sort of reckless abandon that strikes fear into opponents in the paint, and he looked far too passive over the game's first 24 minutes.
However, Born Ready did a fantastic job of keeping his head up and finding open teammates for easy hoops, and racked up a team-high five assists. He also attacked the glass consistently and pulled down seven rebounds in 44 minutes.
The problem is that Stephenson managed 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting, but his energy and clutch two-point dagger with 21.4 seconds remaining helped the Pacers respond in the face of adversity.
Roy Hibbert, Center
You're familiar with the narrative by now. For the majority of the playoffs, Hibbert's looked lost and confused, like his skills had seemingly been sapped from him like he was Charles Barkley in Space Jam. In that regard, he hadn't been Roy Hibbert. He'd just been a wannabe who looked like him.
But from the moment Game 2 tipped off, Hibbert was out to destroy those perceptions. He poured in the Pacers' first five points, including a 19-foot jumper, and looked assertive attempting to position himself down on the blocks.
It was rarely pretty (he often looked like he was moving in quicksand), but Hibbert found confidence in his jump hook and was actually the first player into double figures with 11 points in 10 minutes.
Hibbert went on to finish the first half with 17 points (5-of-7 shooting).
The story stayed the same in the second half, as Hibbert continued to attack the interior with a variety of hooks that finally had him looking like the two-time All-Star we'd come to know.
And more telling than Hibbert's game-high 28 points? The Pacers were a team-best plus-16 with him on the floor.
George Hill, Point Guard
All postseason the Pacers have been looking for more productivity early in their offensive sets and in transition.
Enter George Hill, who helped spark a 13-5 Indiana run to open Wednesday's contest by pushing the pace and getting optimal looks at the rim.
It was an encouraging and constructive effort from Hill, who scored 14 points (6-of-12 shooting) and dropped three dimes. The Pacers can only hope that he'll help generate more early offense in the coming games.
C.J. Watson, Sixth man
Nothing flashy here, but C.J. Watson was steady in 18 minutes off the bench.
Playing his role and providing a small offensive spark, Watson scored five points on 2-of-5 shooting, including 1-of-2 from three.
Averaging in the neighborhood of eight points per game this postseason, it's hard to knock Watson for simply doing what we've come to expect of him.
Other than Watson, Ian Mahinmi was far and away Vogel's most reliable bench contributor. In fact, they may have been the only two, as Evan Turner, Luis Scola and Chris Copeland combined to score one point.
Mahinmi remained active around the basket yet again and poured in six points on 3-of-4 shooting. However, the Pacers were a team-worst minus-14 during his 14 minutes.
Other than that, Indiana's reserves didn't provide much to write home about.
Key Players: Washington Wizards
John Wall, Point Guard
Following an underwhelming Game 1 performance that saw John Wall shoot 4-of-14 from the field (0-of-3 from three), the Wizards point guard needed to bounce back in style.
In the series' opening game, Wall was held to four points and just two drives in the half court, according to NBA.com, but was bailed out by his team's tremendous three-point shooting.
What Washington craved was for Wall to regain his aggressive and relentless form.
Sadly, that never happened. Wall did a nice job of distributing in the half court and in the open floor (team-high eight assists), but the Pacers' defensive scheme largely restricted his ability to get creative off the dribble.
Guarded at times by George in the second half, Wall never got into a comfortable rhythm and floundered to the tune of six points on 2-of-13 shooting (0-of-4 from three). He also demonstrated some questionable late-game shot selection with a pair of threes and committed a crucial turnover down three with 45 seconds remaining.
Bradley Beal, Shooting Guard
The series' smoothest stroke appeared to be at it again with a couple of early conversions from the perimeter, but things quickly slowed down as the Wizards looked to hurt the Pacers with a flurry of mid-range jumpers in the first half.
Scoring aside, Beal displayed his versatility on both ends, whether it was passing or hounding opposing ball-handlers with his quick hands.
In 44 minutes, Beal dished out seven assists and racked up two steals while pulling down five rebounds. Combine those numbers with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting (2-of-6 from three), and the sharpshooting youngster pieced together one of the Wizards' most complete lines of the night.
Nene, Power Forward
After torching the Pacers from beyond the arc in Game 1, the Wizards attempted to establish Nene in the high post early and often in Game 2.
And while there were some encouraging signs, Nene was forced to exit seven minutes into his first-quarter stint with a sprained left ankle.
Upon returning, Nene kept at it, making the Pacers pay from his favorite mid-range locations while excelling in the pick-and-roll.
One of Washington's steadiest hands night after night, Nene provided an admirable 14 points (7-of-14 shooting) and five rebounds playing on a tender ankle.
The problem was that Nene failed to capitalize on a number of trips to the free-throw line and shot 0-of-4 from the charity stripe.
Trevor Ariza, Small Forward
Believe it or not, Trevor Ariza has been the key to all things prosperous in the nation's capital this postseason.
According to NBA.com, the Wizards entered Game 2 a team-best plus-71 with Ariza on the floor and a team-worst minus-42 with him off it.
But during a first half in which the Wizards outscored the Pacers by two, Ariza wasn't bombing away from three like he did during Washington's Game 1 blitz.
That said, Ariza did lead the Wizards with five boards during the game's first 24 minutes and finished with a line of six points (2-of-8 shooting, 2-of-7 from three), eight rebounds and two steals while posting a plus/minus rating of minus-eight.
Marcin Gortat, Center
Quiet for most of the game's opening period, Marcin Gortat announced his presence with authority as the first quarter was nearing a close.
With an emphatic slam one possession and a finish in the pick-and-roll the next, the Polish Hammer made it abundantly clear that he didn't want to go quietly into the night.
Too often overlooked, Gortat tied a team high with eight points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first half working against Hibbert and Mahinmi.
A rousing start to the second half provided us with Gortat's second massive slam of the evening in an attempt to set the tone out of the locker room.
In a battle of bigs, Gortat more than held his own, generating 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting while pulling down a game-high 11 boards.
Drew Gooden, Sixth Man
Drew Gooden made life miserable for David West Monday evening and got an early chance to do so Wednesday night after Nene departed for the locker room with a left ankle injury.
The former Kansas Jayhawk didn't provide a significant statistical punch, but five points, four rebounds and a whole lot of hustle were enough to earn him an average grade. The Wizards were also plus-11 with him on the floor.
Martell Webster's been a virtual non-factor for much of the postseason, averaging 4.5 points over his first six playoff appearances.
But in his first six minutes off the bench, Webster eclipsed that mark, scoring five points on a tidy 2-of-4 shooting. His production would be capped there, though, although Webster did finish with four rebounds.
Andre Miller was steady as well, scoring six points on 3-of-6 shooting.
Taking the Pacers' young bucks to school with his deliberate and patented YMCA post-up moves, the 38-year-old continued to look confident in his offensive capabilities against more athletic counterparts.
What's Up Next
The series will shift to the nation's capital for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 will tip off Friday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, while Game 4 will get underway Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on TNT.
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