Shooting streaks come and go, refs can call everything or nothing, but the one controllable part of professional sports is effort.
Frankly, the Indiana Pacers showed none of it in their humiliating 102-79 loss to the Washington Wizards Tuesday night. Pacers forward David West brought more intensity to his fiery postgame rant than his team displayed in a game that could have secured Indy's second consecutive Eastern Conference Finals appearance.
"We didn't show up to play," West said, via Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star. "I don't know if we thought we were just going to come in here and these guys were going to roll over...I just don't know where we were tonight."
Clearly, they weren't at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Washington out-hustled and outmuscled a team that prides itself on blue-collar work and brute force. The Wizards were posting numbers even video games wouldn't allow:
Marcin Gortat had 16 rebounds in 36 minutes last night. In those 36 minutes, the Pacers had 14 rebounds.— Tim Donahue (@TimDonahue8p9s) May 14, 2014
"At the end of the third quarter, when things were already decided, Marcin Gortat, who should never be confused with Moses Malone, was outrebounding the Pacers 16-15," 1070 The Fan's Conrad Brunner noted. "Gortat and John Wall were outscoring them 54-52."
Gortat, who holds a career scoring average of 9.4, finished with a playoff-career high 31 points and 16 rebounds in 36 minutes. Wall set his own personal best in postseason scoring with 27 points, to go along with five rebounds, five assists and a steal.
Washington nearly tripled Indiana on the glass, 62-23. The Wizards had nearly as many offensive boards (18) as the Pacers had defensively (19).
"It’s everything: Shocking. Disappointing," forward Paul George said, via NBA.com's Steve Aschburner. "We’re better than that. No way we should allow a team on our floor to outrebound us by 40. Regardless of if we’re playing a team full of 7-footers. That’s unacceptable."
It's unimaginable, even for a team that has lowered its bar for the past several months. Offensive struggles are to be expected with this group, but rebounding and tenacity? Those are supposed to be Indiana's specialties.
"A lot of it was timing and two of our main cogs on the defensive glass had one rebound combined tonight. It was tough for us," West said, per Buckner. "(Gortat) had more juice than we had. We didn't gang rebound. We're a gang rebounding team. We didn't do that."
West tried to do his part. He had a good-not-great night (17 points, six rebounds), but he was easily the most active of the Pacers before the Wizards took over with a commanding 31-14 third quarter:
David West leads the #Pacers in points and boards at the half - 10 points and 4 rebounds.— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) May 14, 2014
George managed a single rebound in his 38 minutes. Starting center Roy Hibbert had two in 25 minutes. Lance Stephenson, who led this team in rebounding during the regular season, didn't grab one in his 28 minutes of action.
Perhaps to show the impact that effort can have, seldom-used reserve big man Lavoy Allen (making just his second appearance of the postseason) snagged four boards in his six minutes of action.
How will this series end?
The Pacers still hold a 3-2 series lead, but now they're headed back to Washington for Thursday night's Game 6 (8 p.m. ET on ESPN). If they put up the same type of fight in that game, which is to say none at all, Indiana will be playing a winner-take-all Game 7 for the second consecutive series.
There are so many potential pitfalls over the course of 48 minutes, but lackluster energy should never be one. If the Pacers have more physically present, mentally absent outings in their future, West will have an entire offseason to fume over where it all went wrong.