The Indiana Pacers have been slaughtered throughout the playoffs by expectant media and fans across the league.
They tucked all that away with their Game 6 win on the road in Washington Thursday night.
The Pacers controlled the tempo and restricted the Wizards’ half-court offense in the first half, holding them to just 40 points.
David West rebounded from a poor Game 5 to lead all scorers with 29 points as time and again he found himself open in his midrange wheelhouse.
West scored back-to-back baskets with just over eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter to kick-start a 20-6 game-clinching run for Indiana as their smothering defense returned to it’s historic best.
Despite all the problems – being torched by a depleted Hawks and needing Game 7 to sneak past the eighth seed to Roy Hibbert having three scoreless games in the space of a few days – the Indiana Pacers have returned to where they were last season. They will play the Miami Heat Sunday afternoon in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Indiana needed all of West’s output with Paul George scoring just 12 points on 4-11 shooting. Hibbert had 11 points and 7 boards and Lance Stephenson added 19. The entire starting five for the Pacers scored in double-digits with George Hill scoring 11 on 4-7 from the field.
Washington tried to ride the hot hand of Marcin Gortat, the torturer of the Pacers in Game 5, early in the game. Indiana’s defense, however, made the necessary adjustments since allowing the Polish Hammer to drop 31 points and 16 rebounds and held him to just 19 points on 7-12 shooting.
John Wall, often underwhelming in these playoffs, had 12 points and 9 assists but shot just 5-16 from the floor. The Wizards did not score a point for five straight minutes after Bradley Beal hit a three before Indiana’s 20-6 run. Beal shot similarly poorly, 7-19, for 16 points.
David West: 29 points, 13-26 FGS, 6 rebounds
Lance Stephenson: 19 points, 8-13 FGS, 5 rebounds, 8 assists
Paul George: 12 points, 4-11 FGS, 5 rebounds
Marcin Gortat: 19 points, 7-12 FGS, 6 rebounds
Bradley Beal: 16 points, 7-19 FGS, 4 assists
John Wall: 12 points, 5-16 FGS, 9 assists