The Washington Wizards dismantled the Indiana Pacers 102-79 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Tuesday night. Indiana now holds a 3-2 series lead.
On a night when the Pacers offense collapsed to the tune of 39 percent shooting from the field, the Wizards stayed alive thanks to a sensational effort from center Marcin Gortat.
In 36 minutes, Gortat recorded 31 points and 16 rebounds while the Wizards out-rebounded the Pacers by a staggering 62-23 margin. Washington also finished with an 18-4 advantage on the offensive glass.
"If we play our way, we can beat these guys," Wizards head coach Randy Wittman said following the win, according to the Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer. "We don't want this to end."
John Wall was also superb with the Wizards' season on the line, totaling 27 points (11-of-20 shooting, 3-of-6 from three), five assists and five rebounds.
As a team, the Wizards shot 50 percent from the field and 27.8 percent (5-of-18) from beyond the arc.
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
Paul George's words for his troops prior to Game 5 were cut-and-dried: "We gotta act like this is a Game 7," George said, according to Keefer. "The opportunity is here tonight. We shouldn't have or want plans to go back to D.C. or make this series longer than it needs to be."
Too bad he didn't hold up his end of the bargain.
George's contributions were nominal, and he was consistently out-worked by his positional adversary.
His lone highlight came courtesy of this sweet reverse slam:
Stifled by Trevor Ariza and his team's own stagnant offense, George was unable to replicate his Game 4 successes on a night when he scored just 15 points (5-of-15 shooting, 3-of-5 from three) while turning the ball over a team-high four times.
Roy Hibbert, Center
After stunning the Wizards by scoring 28 points in Game 2, Roy Hibbert recorded double-figure scoring totals in Games 3 and 4.
Call it a small sample size, but those numbers were incredibly encouraging. Back to his aggressive ways, Hibbert started to resemble the dominant low-post presence that rightfully earned an All-Star selection earlier this season.
And while Hibbert's start was a mix of good and bad, he was clearly on a mission to hustle, evidenced by one mid-first-quarter possession:
However, Hibbert went on to finish the first half with a team-worst plus/minus rating of minus-16, which shouldn't come as a surprise given how badly the Pacers were bludgeoned on the glass.
His defense on Gortat wasn't exactly stellar in that span, either:
Finishing with four points, two rebounds and a single block, it feels fair to deem Hibbert's evening a hard regression to his ugly postseason mean.
Lance Stephenson, Shooting Guard
It just wasn't Lance Stephenson's night.
While we're used to Stephenson crashing the boards with reckless abandon, the Pacers were crushed on the glass from start to finish.
Continually out-hustled, Stephenson failed to pull down a single rebound while dishing out three assists.
The offense was fine (nine points on 4-of-8 shooting), but we can't hand out anything higher than a below-average grade here.
David West, Power Forward
David West's offensive productivity in the Eastern Conference Semifinals has been anything but extraordinary, and the story remained the same in Game 5.
Although he had a number of open looks from mid-range, West couldn't establish the sort of rhythm Indiana needed as its offense shot 36.6 percent from the field in the first half.
That said, West kept at it, attempting a team-high nine shots while scoring a team-high 10 points during the game's first 24 minutes.
Operating primarily out of the high-post, West did well to score a team-high 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting while pulling down six rebounds and dropping three dimes.
George Hill, Point Guard
According to NBA.com, George Hill had limited Wizards point guards to 15 drives during Games 1-3, only to see that number balloon to a total of 23 after allowing a combined eight to John Wall and Andre Miller on Sunday.
But early on, Hill's effectiveness depended on which end of the floor he was patrolling.
Not only was Hill over-dribbling on offense, but early turnovers allowed John Wall to get out and finish in transition.
That said, Hill did a nice job of using his length to disrupt some of Wall's tenacious drives, forcing him into three first-quarter turnovers.
The final Pacers starter to record a made field-goal, Hill fell completely flat given what was at stake.
He went on to tally three points (1-of-8 shooting), two assists, two turnovers and one steal.
C.J. Watson, Sixth Man
A combined three points in Games 3 and 4 left little hope that C.J. Watson would provide any sort of offensive punch in Game 5.
However, Watson proved detractors wrong to a degree by facilitating and showing total confidence in his three-point stroke.
An early conversion from deep, two assists and a steal on Wall was more production than we've seen from Watson in nearly a week.
A final line consisting of seven points (2-of-4 shooting), two dimes and a steal was hardly spectacular, but relative to recent performances, it was fine.
We've ragged on the Pacers' bench throughout the postseason for failing to play productive minutes, but Luis Scola tried to change that narrative with an impactful first shift.
The driving force behind an 10-0 run that gave the Pacers a 27-25 lead during the second quarter, Scola announced his presence with five early points, a steal and an energetic full-court scamper.
After a scoreless Game 4, Scola finished with five points (2-of-5 shooting), two rebounds and a steal.
The only other bench contributors of note were Evan Turner and Ian Mahinmi. Turner totaled two points and four rebounds while Mahinmi managed two points and a big doughnut in the rebounding department.
Key Players: Washington Wizards
John Wall, Point Guard
Wall was plenty aggressive from the jump, but that meant the Wizards had to deal with some of his reckless tendencies.
Turnovers tainted some of Wall's offensive success, but his determination to get to the rim and keep the Wizards offense moving at a swift pace was a refreshing sight.
Not intimidated by the enormity of the moment, Wall rose to the occasion and attacked with purpose.
It was the sort of primetime showing we've been looking for from Wall. He delivered in several areas and finished with 27 points, five dimes, five boards and five turnovers.
Simply put, Wall dictated pace beautifully throughout. The Wizards will need two more performances like that from their max contract floor general in order to complete the comeback, but now they know what he's capable of.
Bradley Beal, Shooting Guard
Bradley Beal was uncharacteristically quiet for much of the first quarter.
That is, until he came galloping down the floor and threw down a vicious transition slam:
But with Washington's offense struggling mightily from beyond the arc, the Wizards really could have used Beal's soft touch from deep during an inconsistent first half.
The good news: Beal's efficiency ticked up incrementally as the game wore on, which led to 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting (2-of-5 from three). He also contributed eight rebounds and four assists.
Nene, Power Forward
Washington needed bundles of energy from Nene, which is why his opening minutes were so promising.
Not only was Nene looking more comfortable on offense, but his aggressive hedges and active hands on defense continually disrupted the flow of Indiana's sets.
But those encouraging moments proved to be few and far between.
With Gortat dominating the high-and-low-post touches, Nene was relegated to a role as the Wizards' fourth and sometimes fifth option.
Four points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals highlighted what was a pretty uninspiring night.
Marcin Gortat, Center
Gortat scored four points in Games 3 and 4 combined, which is how many points he totaled within the first 90 seconds of Game 5.
Flashing confidence early in his jump shot and baby hook, Gortat looked like the most aggressive body on the court as he attacked the paint and the boards.
Not only that, but Gortat was unafraid of throwing his body on Hibbert, which forced the Pacers big man to put the ball on the deck continually and force up ugly looks as a result.
Gortat's first-quarter production alone (11 points, six rebounds, one steal and a block) would have earned him passing marks, but his effectiveness didn't stop there.
Get this: Gortat equaled the Pacers' rebounding total (11) in the first half and even pulled down more offensive boards (six) than Frank Vogel's club did (four) during that span.
In what can easily be billed as the Polish Hammer's signature game of the postseason, Gortat finished with a mind-numbing 31 points (13-of-15 shooting), 16 rebounds and a block.
Trevor Ariza, Small Forward
George did a majority of his damage (20 points on 6-of-8 shooting) against Ariza in Game 4, per NBA.com, so it was up to the Wizards swingman to lock up the Pacers' most dynamic scoring threat in Game 5.
And while his defense was improved, Ariza's productivity across the board deserves praise.
Not only did Ariza chip in 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting (0-of-2 from three), but he pulled down 10 boards and helped facilitate by dishing out five assists. Two steals didn't hurt his final grade, either.
Perhaps the series' biggest X-factor, Ariza helped the Wizards stave off elimination while posting a plus/minus rating of plus-31 in 33 minutes.
Drew Gooden, Sixth Man
One area of Drew Gooden's Game 4 performance that may have been overlooked: According to NBA.com, Gooden was the Wizards' most successful shot maker against Roy Hibbert on Sunday, scoring six points on 3-of-5 shooting in 13:43 of direct matchup time.
However, Tuesday night brought different results.
Gooden's offensive production was stymied as he went scoreless. But Gooden's primary impact came on the glass, where he hauled in a very respectable nine rebounds (three offensive) in 17 minutes.
The early returns from Washington's second unit were terribly disappointing.
Andre Miller wasn't aggressive enough, Martell Webster looked like a turnover machine and Al Harrington offered nothing of value.
Webster continued to no-show, but Miller wasn't any better. The duo combined to score six points. Harrington scored the team's first bench points in the fourth quarter.
Thankfully, the Wizards didn't need to lean on their bench because Gortat and Wall assumed the offensive burden.
What's Up Next?
Game 6 will get underway Thursday night at a time to be determined and will be broadcast on ESPN. Game 7, if necessary, will take place on Sunday.