After losing in game 1, the Pacers needed a win in game 2 in order to have a realistic chance to win the series. Coach Frank Vogel was faced with a major decision based upon the poor play of center Roy Hibbert. He had 0 points and 0 rebounds in game 1 of this series. He has been largely unproductive in 6 out of the 7 games of their first round series. Many people were calling for a Hibbert benching and for the team to play smaller. Hibbert was given the start in game 2 and rewarded his coach’s faith by putting up 28 big points to go along with 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in the Pacers 86-82 win. While it wasn’t a dominant or convincing win, it was a huge win nonetheless. More importantly they may have gotten their All-Star Center back on track.
In what was a strong road performance against the number 1 seed in the conference the Wizards collapsed in the final minutes. Down by 3 with a little over 2 minutes left Marcin Gortat tipped out a rebound to John Wall who decided to take a long 3 point shot as opposed to setting up the offense and running a play. The erratic shot was one in a series of mistakes down the stretch for both Wall and his teammates. Gortat was fantastic for Washington with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Nene has 14 points but was kept off the glass with only 5 rebounds. Bradley Beal cooled off from his hot game 1 with 17 points but he also committed 4 turnovers. It can be considered a good sign that nobody played particularly well outside of Gortat and yet they were almost still able to keep the game close throughout.
The Pacers have long been considered the only contender to the Heat in the Eastern Conference. They have yet to play like it in these playoffs, however they are a much different team when they are able to play through Hibbert. He is unique in that nobody in the playoffs can match his unique skill set and size. George Hill, who has been quietly consistent throughout the playoffs, had 14 points. Lance Stephenson had 12 points and 7 rebounds. Paul George had a quiet 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. As opposed to going to his bench more after the game 1 loss, Coach Vogel increased the workload on his starters and was rewarded with a win.
This essentially sets up a best of 5 series with the Wizards now having home court advantage. The Pacers found a way to slow down the Wizards backcourt of Wall and Beal in game 2 and are going to need to be able to repeat that performance if they want to win the series. They also found a way to get Hibbert going, and that is going to be essential to win game sin this series and beyond. The Wizards have a golden opportunity on their home floor to take a stranglehold of the series. It will be very interesting to see what happens.
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