The Pacers' center finally broke out of his funk with 28 points and nine rebounds, leading the Pacers to a Game 2 victory over the Wizards. Russell Westbrook also had a huge game, teaming with Kevin Durant to lead the Thunder over the Clippers.
Los Angeles Clippers Recap
Oklahoma City Thunder Recap
101 - 112 Tied 1-1
5 things to know
Now it's all Andrew Bynum's fault
It seems that we have finally found the root of the Pacers’ problems. It turns out that it was Andrew Bynum*, which makes sense because the once-promising big man has basically become the Yoko Ono of the NBA. Wherever he winds up, pestilence is sure to follow. Bynum got everyone fired in Philly while killing the 76ers momentum, and he followed that up by getting the GM axed in Cleveland and setting that franchise back a year. Surely, he couldn’t have done much damage in Indy where he played a grand total of two games and 36 minutes.
But no, Bynum’s presence reportedly rankled Roy Hibbert, which is the latest excuse for Roy throwing up zeroes in three of his last four postseason outings. With Bynum gone for good, Hibbert turned in a 28-point performance and helped the Pacers salvage a split with Washington.
All of which is to say, sure, whatever gets you through the day. The Pacers have just about run through the litany of excuses -- we’re still waiting on the Curse of Orlando Johnson to gain traction -- and have once again pulled even in a series despite their maddeningly inconsistent ways.
*And all this time we thought everything was Evan Turner’s fault.* -Paul Flannery
Finding their inner peace
"I seriously believe that the biggest person that helped me out here tonight was Paul. We fished for about two hours and just relaxed and didn't talk about basketball. We just talked about life and tried to catch some bass." -- Roy Hibbert in his postgame press conference.
The jokes wrote themselves. There was Paul George, Roy Hibbert and George Hill posing for a fishing picture just as everyone was set to write off the Pacers' season. Did they not know about TNT's annual Gone Fishin' photoshops for eliminated teams? Did they just not care?
There has been a lot of unsavory gossip flying around these Pacers lately (we won't even link to it), and the way they've fallen off after the All-Star might make you think their problems extend beyond the court. What transpired in Game 2, though, looked an awful lot like the Pacers team we were used to seeing the first few months of the season. Roy Hibbert wasn't just engaged, he was dominant. The scoring was balanced and the defense was air-tight.
It's easy to project feelings on situations with so many unknowns, but Indiana's effort on Wednesday proved gossip is best left unconsidered. The Pacers haven't Gone Fishin' just yet, they just needed to clear their heads by casting a few lines. That magic bass might have been all they needed. -Ricky O'Donnell
Finding solace in a tough loss
Fellow Wizards fan, let me talk you off the ledge. Yes, the Wizards lost a close game, which they've done many other times this season. Yes, John Wall had a poor shooting game. Yes, it's not his first poor shooting game of the playoffs.
But let's look at the big picture. Indiana ramped up the defensive pressure and saw Roy Hibbert have his best game since January. The Wizards went 5-21 from three and 5-12 from the line. (To be fair, the second stat happens often). And despite all that, the Pacers needed a stepback Lance Stephenson toe-on-the-line two in the final minute to finish off a win at home in a game they had to win. This can be just like the Mike Dunleavy Game last round.
And yes, Wall took two questionable threes late, but there's a lot of nuance to those decisions. Wall's first miss came off an offensive rebound, a habit he's used with nice success this season. His second came on a transition opportunity when driving to the rim wasn't quite as easy as it seemed initially. Watch this Vine: the pass to Nene underneath wasn't there, and pulling it out forces the Wizards to go against Indiana's stifling set defense. I can see Wall's logic, and this is a completely different conversation if he makes the shots. (I have no defense for the turnover on the next possession, though).
A split is worse than 2-0, sure, but the Wizards still have to feel good about their chances now that the series shifts back to D.C. -Mike Prada
The sound and fury of Westbrook
Wednesday night seemed like an annual holiday. After a Thunder playoff loss in which Russell Westbrook underperformed with some questionable decision-making, the chorus of people lambasting him rose its collective voice.
And, like he always did, Westbrook answered his critics by throwing his athletic body up and down the court, roaring at every made basket and working the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd into a frothing mob. When Westbrook played like he did in Oklahoma City's Game 2 victory -- 31 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and one assist that should not have come close to counting -- there's no scarier team in the NBA. Kevin Durant dropped a nearly identical 31-12-9 line on the night he was presented his first MVP trophy, and he was merely an afterthought after his 17-point first quarter outburst.
That juxtaposition -- the image of Durant being crowned but Westbrook flexing, dunking and dominating -- is one we should be used to by now. But while we've adjusted to Durant's effortless scoring ability and perfect stroke, there is no getting used to Westbrook. When he plays like he did Wednesday night, there's no more compelling theater in the NBA. The Thunder can only hope that chip on his shoulder stays the same size for the rest of the playoffs. -Ethan Rothstein
Don't forget the other Thunder players
The league's Most Valuable Player and the league's Most Exciting Player will garner the majority of the headlines, but Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha were the two players that put OKC over the top in Game 2.
Ibaka stat line -- 13 points, seven rebounds --seems normal, but his effort holding Blake Griffin to 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting with zero dunks kept the Clippers’ momentum in check. Meanwhile, Game 2 served as the confidence builder that Sefolosha desperately needed. He was still a reluctant shooter early in the game, but when he finally got the ball to go through the net, his game picked up with it. His 14 points were huge, but his willingness to stick with a hot-shooting J.J. Redick, be an active body in defending Jamal Crawford and come up with timely steals and stops stemmed the tide for the Thunder in big moments.
Add in OKC's goon squad of Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams -- 14 points, 14 rebounds and a few moments of PHYSICALITY towards Griffin and Chris Paul between them -- and the role players earned an A+ tonight. Durant and Westbrook will have to produce at a high level for the Thunder to win the series, but OKC’s role players can make their superstars’ lives a lot easier if they can contribute like they did Wednesday. -Eddie Maisonet
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