In adminstering a Game 5 pounding to Indiana on Tuesday night in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Washington Wizards crushed the Pacers on the board.
Yet the biggest rebound of the night belonged to John Wall.
The former Kentucky guard had taken the lion’s share of the criticism after the Wizards fell behind 3-1 in the series.
In all the postmortems of how the Wizards lost their grip on this series, the main thread going forward has to be the brutal growing pains of Wall in the postseason.
They are down 3-1 in this best-of seven second round after Sunday’s mother of a Game 4 loss. They are down to their last game because their point guard could not close the deal to knot the series at 2.
Wall fired back on the floor Tuesday, big-time. The point guard scored 27 points as Washington walloped the poor Pacers, 102-79, to force a sixth game.
Wall hit 11 of 20 shots, including three of six from behind the three-point arc. He dished five assists and had one steal. He was the much-needed catalyst of the Washington offense, which got a huge boost from Marcin Gortat, who turned into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the way to 31 points and 16 rebounds.
And what to make of the Pacers? Just when we thought Frank Vogel, the former Rick Pitino manager at UK, had the East’s No. 1 seed pointed in the right direction, Indiana pulls yet another face-plant.
Washington outrebounded Indiana 62-23. That’s both amazing and ridiculous at the same time.
But back to Wall. Michael Lee of the Post reported that the All-Star guard was “despondent and distant” before Game 5, then went out and gave Washington just what it needed.
The Wizards had been outscored in the third quarter of every game this series, including a combined 59-29 in both home losses. But Wall made sure that there wouldn’t be anything close to a repeat performance as he hit three three-pointers and personally outscored the Pacers, 17-14, to send his team into the fourth period with a 24-point lead. Entering the game, Wall hadn’t scored more than 15 points in any game this series.
“He’s a fighter. He wants to win; he’s a competitor,” Gortat said of Wall. “Today, he came out, he played his game and he played his game with me, which is pretty cool.”
- NBA.com coverage of Pacers-Wizards
- Somewhere on South Beach, the Heat are chuckling
- NBA Draft Combine list and projections