The Indiana Pacers defeated the Washington Wizards 93-80 Thursday night to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive season.
While it was hardly pretty, the Pacers shot a strong 51.4 percent from the field and 20 percent from three, while David West led all scorers with 29 points.
After outscoring the Wizards by 12 in the first half, the Pacers were outscored 23-19 in the third period before Washington took a one-point lead with 8:30 remaining in regulation.
But then the Pacers responded, thanks to West's mid-range dominance (13-of-26 shooting).
“I just didn’t want us to lose this game," West told ESPN's Doris Burke after the win, according to NBA.com's Scott Agness. "I just told coach, ‘We’re going to win this game.’"
Marcin Gortat led the Wizards in scoring for the second straight game with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, but Washington shot just 39.2 percent from the field and 11.1 percent (2-of-18) from beyond the arc, including a ghastly showing in the first half.
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 role players and reserves are graded on a curve due to their smaller allotment of minutes.
Key Players: Indiana Pacers
Paul George, Small Forward
After the Pacers offense imploded in Game 5, Indiana desperately needed Paul George to respond with an effort reminiscent of Game 4.
In Game 5, George was held in check by Trevor Ariza to the tune of one point on 0-of-3 shooting in nearly 10 minutes of matchup time, per NBA.com.
Despite Ariza's relative inactivity, George didn't operate as anything close to resembling the focal point of Indiana's offense.
With the team's scoring fairly balanced—all five starters scored in double-figures—George mustered just 12 points (4-of-11 shooting, 1-of-5 from three) while hauling in five rebounds, dropping two dimes and accumulating a team-high three steals.
The highlight of George's night came when he talked trash with an opposing fan:
Roy Hibbert, Center
If you want an easy way to identify the outcome of a Pacers game, all you really have to do is watch Roy Hibbert:
Hibbert surpassed his scoring average in losses in the first quarter alone (four points, 2-of-3 shooting), but it was his rim protection (three blocks) that really inspired confidence:
While his rebounding wasn't superlative (seven boards), Hibbert sustained respectable production on offense (11 points on 4-of-8 shooting) despite plays not regularly running through him on the low blocks.
Lance Stephenson, Shooting Guard
Head coach Frank Vogel made it clear before tipoff that his team would be fueled by their massively disappointing Game 5.
"I think getting our tails kicked the other night should do that itself," Vogel responded to a question about the team's need to play with a sense of urgency, according to the Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner.
One player, in particular, who needed to play with more urgency and aggression was Lance Stephenson.
Searching to end a run of three straight single-digit outputs in the scoring column, Stephenson looked to attack the paint, a sight seldom seen on Tuesday.
Using his size and muscle to work past Bradley Beal, Stephenson totaled nine first-quarter points, matching his total from all of Game 5.
After posting a team-high plus/minus rating of plus-11 in the first half, Stephenson went on to finish with a personal series-high 17 points (8-of-13 shooting), five rebounds and a team-high eight assists.
David West, Power Forward
We've been pleading for the Pacers to make David West a bigger part of their early offense throughout the second round, and they finally got him going with a couple of early jumpers in Game 6.
Seven first-quarter points laid the groundwork for an evening that saw West score 29 points on 13-of-26 shooting as the Pacers offense rediscovered a bit more efficiency in the half-court. He also racked up six boards and four assists in the win.
One of two Pacers players to finish the first half in double-figures, West did well to stretch the floor while creating a bit of space for the team's wings to create off-the-dribble, especially in the first and second quarters.
Demonstrating his full range of offensive tools, West assumed the scoring burden when the Pacers fell behind and even flashed a little one-legged fadeaway, akin to the shot made famous by Dirk Nowitzki.
George Hill, Point Guard
With Stephenson assuming a larger portion of the ball-handling duties thanks to his renewed aggression, George Hill was phased out of the offense a bit more from an operational perspective.
That said, Hill continued to find ways to contribute on both ends of the floor, scoring 11 points to go with six rebounds, three assists, two steals and four turnovers.
Doubling his Game 5 point total over the first 24 minutes of Game 6, Hill did a nice job of staying involved while not forcing the issue.
C.J. Watson, Sixth Man
C.J. Watson's activity in the first half meshed well with Indiana's high level of productivity.
Pushing the ball in transition, forcing the issue and getting to the rim, Watson compiled four points, two rebounds and no assists.
Flashing a nice burst in the open floor, Watson helped the Pacers outscore the Wizards 7-0 on the fast break in the first half as Indiana shot 58.8 percent from the floor during that span.
All told, the Pacers wound up being outscored 10-9 in transition by the Wizards as Indiana's offense stalled over portions of the third and fourth quarters.
By now, you're familiar with the Pacers primary bench bodies.
Luis Scola, Evan Turner and Ian Mahinmi all logged rotational minutes off the pine, with the big man providing the most statistically significant contribution—which isn't saying much.
While Turner and Scola scored zero and four points, respectively, Mahinmi dropped in four points while securing one rebound in 11 minutes.
Key Players: Washington Wizards
John Wall, Point Guard
Simply put, the Wizards needed a near-carbon copy of John Wall's Game 5 performance in order to fight another day:
And from the opening tip, it was clear Wall's confidence in his jump shot hadn't waned. Knocking down pull-up mid-range jumpers with a nice rhythm over the game's early minutes, Wall looked like he was on pace for another big night.
However, Wall's confidence was so high that he often forced up reckless, contested looks that caused Washington's offense to stall as the Pacers jumped out to a 29-23 lead after one quarter.
In need of more penetration from their point guard, the Wizards offense finally started to pick things up in tandem with Wall's heightened aggression, which helped Washington get off to an 11-6 run to start the third quarter.
But overall, it just wasn't a pretty effort. Constantly looking to deliver a knockout blow from deep, Wall could have helped his club by playing a more controlled style.
The team leader in assists with nine, Wall's night was generally more cold than hot as he scored 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting (0-of-4 from three) while pulling down five rebounds and committing a team-high five turnovers.
Bradley Beal, Shooting Guard
Beal's offensive production in the first quarter was just fine (five points), but his defense on Stephenson was anything but.
Consistently letting Stephenson penetrate with his lethal right-handed dribble, Beal looked overwhelmed and overmatched against the streaky wing.
With the game's flow constantly disrupted by touch fouls, Beal never really looked quite like the potent knockdown shooter that we've become accustomed to seeing.
Sixteen points on 7-of-19 shooting (2-of-6 from three) coupled with three rebounds and four assists comprised an admirable effort, especially after Beal could have fallen flat despite being outplayed by Stephenson in the first half.
Marcin Gortat, Center
In order for the Wizards to fight another day, Marcin Gortat needed to impose his offensive will just like he did in Game 5.
Following a massive 31-point, 16-rebound outing on Tuesday, Gortat was the focal point of Washington's offense early, displaying a number of crafty moves out of the post.
The point total was nowhere near as gaudy as the other night, but setting the bar that high for the Polish Hammer would be unfair.
Nineteen points on 7-of-12 shooting highlighted Gortat's evening, but an inability to dominate on the boards (six rebounds) stifled his impact.
Nene, Power Forward
With the majority of the Wizards' early points coming in the paint, Nene matched his Game 5 point total by the midway point of the opening period.
Although the points weren't flowing at a particularly nice rate, Nene was the first Wizards player into double figures with 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
Nene's success rate against the Pacers bigs was higher than it's been in the past, but he didn't have the sort of explosive effort that could help mask the team's perimeter troubles.
He finished with 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting, six rebounds and two dimes.
Trevor Ariza, Small Forward
Washington's steadiest player over the course of the postseason, Ariza has earned himself a nice raise thanks to his two-way consistency.
But two fouls in fewer than six minutes in forced Ariza to the bench, with Martell Webster entering as his replacement.
Ariza failed to register a point in the first half as Washington's perimeter attack floundered, and his final line of six points (1-of-5 shooting), seven rebounds and no steals was a far cry from the all-around dependability we've come to expect.
He finished with a team-worst plus/minus rating of minus-24 in 36 minutes.
Drew Gooden, Sixth Man
Like most of Washington's bench contributors, Drew Gooden didn't exactly steal the show with his play in Game 6.
But credit Gooden for not shying away from the moment.
Known for his prowess on the glass, Gooden tallied four rebounds to go with four points after a first half devoid of any statistical contributions.
Here's how you know things weren't going Webster's way:
Not only that, but Ariza's early departure forced Webster into a matchup with George, one that greatly favored the Pacers swingman.
But where Webster failed, Andre Miller succeeded, which was good news for a Wizards bench that was simply putrid a couple of nights ago.
Getting to the rim with his deceptive speed and muscle, Miller finished with four points on 2-of-3 shooting in just three minutes.
What's Up Next?
The No. 1 seeded Pacers will have home-court advantage against the Miami Heat when the Eastern Conference Finals open on Sunday.