The Washington Wizards have already survived one elimination game in their playoff series with the Indiana Pacers. If they can do that one more time, the No.5 seed will force a deciding seventh game.
The Eastern Conference semifinals moves back to Washington on Thursday night for Game Six. Indiana has 3-2 series lead, and failed to advance to the next round with a loss at home on Tuesday.
Washington didn’t just survive in Game Five. They were dominant, defeating Indiana by 23 points. The Pacers have struggled to score on many occasions, and their offensive issues were apparent on Tuesday. They scored just 79 points, including 33 points in the second and third quarter.
If the Wizards want to stay alive in the series, John Wall may have to perform like he did in Game Five. For much of the series, Indiana has held the point guard in check. The Pacers, who were the No.1 defensive team in the regular season, limited Wall to 11.5 points on 31.4 percent from the field in the first four contests. In Game Five, he exploded for 27 points, five rebounds and five assists on 11-of-20 shooting.
Wall’s ability to make shots has been a determining factor in the outcome of Wizards’ games the whole year. His field-goal percentage is significantly higher in victories (45.4 percent) than it is when Washington loses (41.1). The 23-year-old makes 38.5 percent of his threes in victories, but just 31.3 percent when the Wizards are on the losing end.
While Wall is imperative to the Wizards’ success, Roy Hibbert’s performance has an even great impact on the Pacers. He’s played very well in Indiana victories, but has been nonexistent in their losses this series. In the Pacers’ two defeats, the center has totaled just four points and two rebounds. In three wins, he’s averaging nearly 20 points and eight rebounds per contest.
It appears impossible to predict what kind of performance Hibbert will have on a day-to-day basis. After being shutout in the series opener, he scored 28 points and was the best player on the floor. On Tuesday, he scored just four points and was dominated by Marcin Gortat, who made 13 of his 15 field-goal attempts.
The Pacers have been very difficult to predict since the All-Star Break, and the oddsmakers aren’t expecting them to close out the series on Thursday. The betting odds at most Las Vegas casinos have the Wizards listed as four-point favorites.
ESPN will broadcast the game on TV at 8 p.m. ET. Viewers can watch a free live stream online with WatchESPN.
Prediction: Washington doesn’t have much of an advantage playing at home, considering they are just 1-3 in playoff games at the Verizon Center. Wall and Bradley Beal account for one of the best backcourt combinations in the NBA, but the Pacers have done a good job of containing them for much of the series. Wall and Gortat’s big Game Five performances were likely aberrations. Paul George has only had one really impressive performance against Washington, and he could be in line for a special night.
Predicted Score: Indiana 96, Washington 88