NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, May 9th (All times Eastern)
(1) Indiana Pacers (1-1) at (5) Washington Wizards (1-1), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Indiana Pacers drew even in their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Washington Wizards last time out, but the action shifts to our nation's capital Friday night for Game 3.
Friday will mark the first second-round playoff game in Washington since 2005. That year, the Wizards were swept by the Miami Heat in the semis, but that won't happen this time around.
The Wiz won Game 1 on Monday, but the Pacers clawed back into the series with an 86-82 home victory on Wednesday.
Indiana was carried by the unlikeliest of players in Game 2.
Roy Hibbert, who scored zero points and grabbed zero rebounds in Game 1's loss, scored 28 points and grab nine rebounds on Wednesday. Hibbert went scoreless three times this postseason and put up donuts in both categories twice, but the All-Star took his mind off things and dominated the Wizards.
"Sometimes I wear my heart on my sleeve and other times I just keep things in," admitted Hibbert. "Tonight, I just felt like I just had one thing on my mind: to help this team win. My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball in my sweet spot and believing in me. I just wanted to return the favor."
Head coach Frank Vogel acknowledged he didn't call any plays for Hibbert, but the big man was active from the jump. He scored the game's first five points and totaled 17 in the first half.
"I'm sure he didn't like the way he played the other night," said Vogel. "I'm sure he didn't like the criticism. That's the remarkable thing. You play with a certain amount of force and the ball finds you."
Another factor that may have freed up Hibbert was the team's announcement that Andrew Bynum, who was signed as a backup in February, would not appear in a game this postseason and that his tenure with the Pacers was over.
Some reports indicated Hibbert wasn't pleased with the Bynum signing.
George Hill finished with 14 points, followed by 12 from Lance Stephenson and 11 out of Paul George.
Marcin Gortat had 21 points to lead the Wizards, Bradley Beal added 17 and Nene scored 14 despite rolling his left ankle in the first quarter. All-Star guard John Wall and Trevor Ariza, who scored 22 in Game 1, combined for 12 points in Game 2.
Hibbert's magical return to form meant a lot for the Pacers, but Game 2 was tightly contested until late in the fourth quarter.
Gortat scored with 3:23 to go to get the Wiz within one, but Washington couldn't buy a bucket after that. The Wizards didn't score again until 11 seconds remained in the game and Indiana did enough to knot the series.
"End of the day, we played a pretty good game," said Gortat. "We didn't shoot the ball well, especially from the 3-point line. We've just got to play better."
Playoff basketball returned to Washington for the first time since 2008 and this season is the third time since 1982 the Wizards advanced out of the first round.
"I hope that when we get back to D.C. we're going to see the crowd ready at least 30 minutes before the game," said Gortat. "We need them. I hope they come early and we're going to try and bring it."
The Wizards went 1-1 at the Verizon Center against the Chicago Bulls in round one. Washington has won two in a row over the Pacers as the host, but Indiana won four straight prior to that.
"This is playoff basketball. You can't lose at home," noted Gortat.
Game 4 will be Sunday night in Washington.
05/09 10:34:19 ET