Indianapolis - After Indiana eeked out a seven-game series win over Atlanta, I opined that I thought the Pacers could only truly declare themselves "back" if they took care of an emerging, but still young, Washington team in six games or less.
After a rousing comeback in Game 4 in Washington on Sunday, it appeared the Pacers were ready to do just that. Leading 3-1 in the series, the Wizards limped into Indianapolis on Tuesday and seemed ripe to be closed out by the invigorated Pacers.
It was finally time for the Pacers to grab the bull by the horns and re-establish themselves as NBA title contenders. Instead, they grabbed nothing but thin air.
Washington put a 102-79 beatdown on the Pacers, the worst home playoff loss in team history. The Wizards did so by outrebounding the Pacers by an almost unfathomable 62-23 margin.
Take a moment and read that number again. Then take a minute to let it sink in. Blows your mind, doesn't it? Wizards coach Randy Wittman was appropriately flummoxed. He said he'd never seen anything like it.
Before the evisceration of the Pacers begins, spare a thought for what the Wizards did. At the end of the third quarter, Washington had a 50-15 rebounding edge. Washington's third quarter rebounding edge was 18-4. Four Wizards had at least eight rebounds.
Washington forward Marcin Gortat apparently summoned the glass-cleaning spirit of Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Jeff Ruland, Chris Webber and Gheorghe Muresan all at once as he had 16 rebounds at the end of the third quarter, out-rebounding the Pacers single-handedly. He was 13 of 15 from the floor and scored 31.
It was the kind of back-against-the-wall, killer instinct effort the Pacers needed out of their stars. Instead, the Wizards' starting five outscorded the Pacers' starters 90-48 and had a 43-11 rebounding edge. Maybe the Pacers were still fishing?