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Marcin Gortat dominates, re-raising all the same old questions about the Pacers

May 13, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT

Washington Wizards v Indiana Pacers - Game Five Getty Images

In the first quarter, Marcin Gortat asserted himself. In the second, he was calling for the ball. By the third, he couldn’t stop smiling.

And in the fourth, he played.

Not that he needed to for long.

After sitting the entire fourth quarter of Game 4, Gortat posted 31 points and 16 rebounds – matching career-high scoring in any game and setting career playoff-high rebounding – to lead the Washington Wizards to a 102-79 win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 Tuesday.

By winning three straight games, the Pacers seemed to have put their problems behind them. But in passively dropping their series advantage to 3-2, Indiana suddenly looks every bit the mentally fragile and physically timid team that struggled late in the regular season and nearly lost to the Hawks in the first round.

When Gortat led the game for good early in the fourth quarter, he had as many rebounds as the entire Pacers team.

Gortat was a beast all game, efficiently shooting 13-for-15, crashing the offensive glass and neutralizing Roy Hibbert (four points and two rebounds).

In a pivotal stretch, though, John Wall took over.

The Pacers had outscored Washington by 6, 6, 14 and 16 points in the third quarters of Games 1-4. Wizards coach Randy Wittman was so concerned about his players’ halftime routine, he jokingly suggested before the game they wouldn’t return to the locker room.

https://twitter.com/MrMichaelLee/status/466334546611671040

Wittman didn’t follow through, and the Wizards missed the best halftime act in the business – Quick Change.

But they didn’t miss the quickest player in the series change the flow of the game.

Wall scored 17 of his 27 points (a high in his first playoffs) in the third quarter, taking over after struggling with turnovers earlier in the game.

Wall also defended well, helping to hold George Hill to 1-of-8 shooting, and finished with five assists and five rebounds. Trevor Ariza (10 points and 10 rebounds), Bradley Beal (18 points and eight rebounds) and Drew Gooden (nine rebounds) also contributed on the glass to help Washington outrebound Indiana by an astonishing 62-23 margin.

Once again, the Pacers look hapless. Maybe they can win Game 6 Thursday in Washington, where they’ve won both games this series. But by faltering tonight, they’ll face the common questions about their state of mind, and those inquiries could draw out previously buried insecurities.

The only advantage Indiana has right now is its 3-2 series lead – though that’s a big one.

Overcoming a 3-1 deficit is not easy, but the Wizards’ ability to win on the road gives them a chance. Washington has now won five road games these playoffs. All 67 teams to win five road games in a postseason have reached the conference finals (or, as they were previously known, division finals).

Before playing a Game 7 in Indiana, the Wizards would have to win Game 6 in a place they’ve lost two straight. But maybe, on the road tonight, they found a solution – just (Polish) Hammer it home.

  1. pharohislife - May 13, 2014 at 10:01 PM

    It’s a shame the Wizards gave away, I mean LITERALLY gave away Game 4. Because there would then be no doubt in my mind they’d be the ones advancing. Now, it’s an uphill battle that they’re not likely to come out on top of.

    • kinggw - May 13, 2014 at 10:13 PM

      They are facing an uphill battle, but if there is a team that could give up a 3-1 lead and lose a Game 7 on their home floor, it’s this Pacers team. Whether it was Game 2,3 or 4. It seemed as if the Wizards lost the game rather than the Pacers winning it.

      I expect the Pacers to take care of business on Thursday, but if they don’t I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wizards made Game 7 very interesting.

      • bougin89 - May 14, 2014 at 9:22 AM

        Well the flip side of that is this Pacer team could very well blow out the Wizards tomorrow night in DC.

        This Jekyll and Hyde Pacer team is really hard to figure out. When they’re “on” though they are really, really tough to beat. It’s anyone’s guess which Pacer team will show up tomorrow.

      • kinggw - May 14, 2014 at 10:39 AM

        That’s the one thing I think we can be sure will not happen. The Pacers may win, but they aren’t blowing anyone out. Their one blowout was more an indictment of the Wizards than the Pacers playing well. In that Game 3 win, they shot 42%. That’s not the mark of a team that had it going on all cylinders for a game. That game was about a team that got a little too hype in their first home game of the second round.

        The Pacers haven’t been “on” this entire post season. They’ve had some good individual performances like Hibbert in Game 2 and George in Game 4 and managed to escape with wins in games they probably should’ve lost. I think you could argue we have yet to see them on and as others have mentioned its hard to see them all of a sudden hit that switch. Now is the perfect time for that complete game that’s been eluding them because I don’t think they can count on the Wizards giving them a third straight game in DC.

      • bougin89 - May 14, 2014 at 11:46 AM

        I don’t mean when they’re “on” that they are going to score 120 points. That’s not them. When they’re “on” they are straight up locking down the other team. Hibbert’s “on” is protecting the rim and scoring his 10 points. When the Good Pacers show up they lock up the other teams and dominate them in the 3rd quarter/second half. When that’s happening they’re tough to beat and that’s by any team.

        This year though if they make it past the Wizards to face the Heat they can’t have 2 or more Bad Pacers games. That series will be over in no time if that happens.

    • RavenzGunnerz - May 13, 2014 at 10:48 PM

      I don’t think this Wizard team would beat the Heat, but I truly believe that they would give them trouble. Gortat would own Bosh, no questions about it. Nene would be a huge xfactor. But can Ariza Guard James? the answer is…. NO. Nobody can actually guard James.

      • trevor123698 - May 14, 2014 at 1:33 AM

        yes he can.

  2. seattlesuperchronic - May 13, 2014 at 10:01 PM

    Do people like Shaq in the TNT show?

    • drunkenjunk - May 13, 2014 at 10:11 PM

      Na, he’s awful and contributes nothing.

      • nykfanwakemeupin2015 - May 14, 2014 at 9:20 AM

        I don’t think anyone thought he would be this annoying. He is like a friend that is great to hangout with once every couple of months but anymore then that and you get annoyed real fast!

    • nfl4days - May 13, 2014 at 10:14 PM

      He’s too sensitive. He can talk crap all day but gets all defensive when he gets it back. Bring back cwebb.

      • seattlesuperchronic - May 13, 2014 at 10:21 PM

        I’d take Webber over Shaq any day. I’d rather not hear Webber calling games, I like him after the game.

      • kinggw - May 13, 2014 at 10:28 PM

        I like Webber. I like him when he commentates and I like him when he’s in the studio. I think he’s better served as a commentator because he seems to be the one guy who is impartial. Kerr, Miller and Anthony all have their favorites.

        Greg Anthony might as well have been working for the YES network yesterday, if you didn’t know any better you’d swear he was the Nets color guy.

    • ranfan12 - May 13, 2014 at 10:22 PM

      i’m close to preferring his antics over stephen and skip sounding like they want to fight each other lol almost.

    • pharohislife - May 13, 2014 at 10:41 PM

      They all have good chemistry at least, they being Shaq, Ernie, Chuck, and Kenny. I don’t mind Shaq because although it’s clear that he isn’t very insightful, he is a character, he’s such a goofy entertaining guy to watch that I don’t mind him being on there. Especially when he goes at Chuck, that’s always funny.

      • borderline1988 - May 14, 2014 at 10:04 AM

        I hate when they start joking. 75% of the time, you can’t hear what they said, and they just laugh for like 3 minutes. They may be funny guys, but they have no idea how to deliver on national TV.

        And the in-game commentator (I think it was Webber) was awful also. He kept talking out of his *** in the 4th quarter. Like when he said
        “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a player make a shot in garbage time and that’s the thing that gets him going next game”. Give me an example! It sounds great, but webber was just making stuff up.

        Also:
        “You can’t just flip the switch on effort” – Yes you can, Miami does it every game. OKC did it last game. What happens if Indiana wins game 6?

        Or “Every team has their identity, and every team is now looking at Indiana and realizing that they don’t give their full effort, which makes the other team put in more effort and beat them” such bs.

        I don’t mind if a commentator gives his opinion, but don’t just make stuff up to fit the current narrative.

    • bougin89 - May 14, 2014 at 9:25 AM

      Shaq is absolutely awful on TNT. It seems he’s jealous of current players even though he shouldn’t be.

  3. nfl4days - May 13, 2014 at 10:07 PM

    Man if the pacers manage to lose this series……..

  4. realtalksportsatl - May 13, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    Reblogged this on REAL TALK SPORTS and commented:
    Great stuff from the guys at Pro Basketall Talk

  5. antistratfordian - May 13, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    Hibbert AWOL again?

    So would the Heat beat the Pacers in 4 or 5? I’m going to say 4. Sweep.

    • kinggw - May 13, 2014 at 10:23 PM

      The Heat would never get this uninspired Pacers team. Indy gets up for the Heat. I don’t necessarily think that will make Hibbert and George consistent, but you can bet the Heat would get a more determined Pacer team than what you’ve seen against the Hawks and Wiz.

      • antistratfordian - May 13, 2014 at 10:37 PM

        Inspired or not – it won’t make any difference. The Pacers have too many problems that they are not going to resolve by the time they get to the next round (if they get there).

      • zoomy123 - May 13, 2014 at 11:01 PM

        This is a myth. It’s the playoffs, you should be up for everybody. Every game either brings you closer to a championship or elimination. If you’re not up for that type of intensity, then there’s something wrong with you psychologically.

      • kinggw - May 14, 2014 at 12:07 AM

        It’s not a myth. You think the level of intensity and sense of urgency when the Heat play the Bobcats is the same as when they face the Pacers?

        We’d all like to believe the being in the playoffs is motivation enough for these guys but it’s not. The Pacers knew they had a commanding lead in the series and were nonchalant about tonight’s game. They wouldn’t have taken the Heat for granted like that. It’s well documented that teams get jacked up to face their rivals. The Wiz aren’t the Pacers rivals. They don’t elicit the same fire in the belly as the Bulls or Heat.

      • borderline1988 - May 14, 2014 at 10:10 AM

        Even if Indiana is playing well especially defensively, I just don’t see the offense that can beat Miami. Last year, Hibbert was making offensive plays to keep Indiana around, I just don’t seem him scoring 22 pts a game this year.

        Assuming the games are close in the 4th b/c Indiana’s defense is as stifling as it was last year, Miami has so many guys they can rely on who can hit big shots down the stretch..Ray Allen, Wade, Lebron, Bosh, Chalmers.

        The Pacers have Paul George and arguably David West. No one else. I don’t trust George Hill, Stephenson, Turner, Scola, etc. Those guys may show up with nice 2nd or 3rd quarters, but you cannot rely on them in crunch-time.

    • ranfan12 - May 13, 2014 at 10:40 PM

      waiting for gilbert arena’s next post about this game.

    • zackd2 - May 14, 2014 at 12:01 AM

      AWOL? No way, he provides value that the stat sheet doesn’t show!1!!

      • bougin89 - May 14, 2014 at 5:14 PM

        No, you can see the value he provides on a stat sheet. It’s called defensive rating. Last year he was second in the NBA, this year he was 6th.

        Also he’s 5th in the NBA in each of the past two seasons in defensive win shares.

        It’s not likely that someone like you who only uses counting stats would understand that though, sorry.

  6. rodge1 - May 13, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    Shaq is terrible on TNT.

  7. goldmember21 - May 13, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    Wizards in 6.

    • miamatt - May 14, 2014 at 10:57 AM

      erm…

  8. eugenesaxe1 - May 13, 2014 at 11:15 PM

    I think the Pacers just blew their chance to advance. And props to Gortat, he put his big boy pants on today.

  9. money2long - May 14, 2014 at 12:11 AM

    The problem with the pacers is that they get in this mindset like the job is already done.
    We saw that when they faced the hawks. They all probably thought this below .500 team would fold, a lowly 8th seed. And they got a rude awakening. We saw that the second half of the season when they thought they could cruise to the number one seed. Then they got a rude awakening and realized the season ain’t over Til it’s over. We see that now when they were at home in a close out game thinking it would be a breeze and they played like it and got whooped. They never come In every game with the same urgency. This makes me wonder that they think getting the number one seed is all they need to save them in the conference finals. Losing tonight will definitely be another one of those eye openers for them to play hard. They will advance but the way the walk into games expecting things to go their way because it the position they are in is a very bad thing to do and I’m leaning toward thinking the heat will once again find themselves in the nba finals. The pacers must learn how to step on people’s necks and stop chilling. They must play like champions if they want to one day be champions and I do not think they are ready to beat the heat. They will beat the wizards. But I’m not convinced they will beat Miami. I sure hope they make things interesting though.

  10. realfootballfan - May 14, 2014 at 12:38 AM

    What, that they don’t score enough? Even when they win, they score in the 80;s or low 90’s. Not going to cut it against the Heat or any of the West’s best.

  11. savvybynature - May 14, 2014 at 12:51 AM

    Never heard of a team getting outrebounded by 40 rebounds! In the playoffs. Dayumm.

  12. pistolpete0903 - May 14, 2014 at 12:55 AM

    Vow…has there been any team in the NBA past which has been this baffling?!!!
    The inconsistency of these Pacers is of historical proportions. I can see them blow out the Wizards in Game 6, on the the other hand they could be trounced easily as well.

  13. mungman69 - May 14, 2014 at 2:12 AM

    No, Shaq is terrible. Fire him.

  14. kavika6 - May 14, 2014 at 4:35 AM

    Love that picture of Gortat. Fe Fi Fo Fum!

  15. Eutaw's Finest - May 14, 2014 at 7:15 AM

    Indiana Bi-Polar Pacers.

    Hope Wiz can take it to game 7, but not exactly optimistic that it will happen. And even if it does? I’m not thinking like they take game 7 and advance. This squad is young and the past few games (up until last night) it really showed- they had leads in Games 2 and 4 going into the 4th and young guns couldn’t stay on top, eventually allowing the Pacers to come back and inevitably win.

    Regardless, getting into the 2nd round of the playoffs, winning on the road 5 of 6 games, and getting plenty of experience can only help the Wiz moving forward… assuming they can manage to keep this core together after the season ends. Ariza and Gortat are FA’s, along with a ton of others. Actually I believe the only players under contract next year are Wall, NeNe, Beal, Andre Miller, Webster and Otto Porter (terrible) coming in around $46M collectively. So the Wiz will be left to decide- try to keep this team together? Or go after a big name with big money? And does Dirty Randy hang around? He’s been decent as a coach, but I can’t help but think his coaching played a factor in the 3 straight loses this series (Pacers adjusted their game heading into game 2, and the Wiz did not counter at any point in time until the elimination game yesterday). Could there be an upgrade out there?

    Plenty of questions to be answered in the district once this series is over, whether it be tomorrow or this weekend.

  16. jbeagles23 - May 14, 2014 at 7:40 AM

    The pacers are way to up and down to be a contender

  17. unxpexted1 - May 14, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    It’s sad that the wizards havent been able to close a couple games this series, especially game 4. The Wizards best is better than the Pacers best, unfortunately when the Wiz don’t play their best they don’t win. Indiana, hasn’t played their best all series it seems and finds uglier and uglier ways to pull out a W.

  18. unxpexted1 - May 14, 2014 at 8:16 AM

    Nice to see John Wall back, he’s looked lost the last few games.

  19. miamatt - May 14, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    Does Gortat look more a genie, or a sorcerer?

  20. nard100 - May 14, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    I loved how Webber just got to a point where there was nothing left to say about the Pacers pitiful performance. I was hoping the Wizards would win this round so that Miami would not have to face the Pacers. However, now I think I changed my mind. I do agree with comments that say the Pacers will play harder against the Heat, but the Wizards are for real. They won me over. While I don’t think they will get past the Pacers, they have shown us all that they are a team to look out for next year. They just have to learned composure and I think they showed that last night. They showed that maybe they are learning how to finish what they start.

  21. sportsfan18 - May 14, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    many of the Pacers ARE incredibly talented basketball players…

    but the author was right… they ARE mentally fragile… and that cannot be taught…

    MJ – killer instincts…

    Bird – talked trash a lot and backed it up even more… couldn’t get inside his head

    current Pacers players would lose in a staring contest with a 6 year old…

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