The Indiana Pacers picked up a huge 86-82 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, tying up their Conference Semifinal series at one game apiece. The victory was especially notable because Roy Hibbert had an absolutely dominant game, and the Pacers finally looked like the team that was supposed to challenge the Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy.
On the whole of the night, Hibbert played 33 minutes and compiled 28 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, one assist and only two fouls. This was by far his most impressive performance of the last two months, as he essentially nullified the impact of both Marcin Gortat and Nene. Hibbert seemingly brushed off whatever had been bothering him recently, and his energy level on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball was palpable.
With a dominant force on the interior, the Pacers finally have the right pieces to be the lock down defensive unit they can be, and that is necessary to win the NBA Title. The likes of Paul George, David West and Lance Stephenson may not have lit up the scoreboard on Tuesday, but they showed great cohesiveness on the defensive side of the ball, and their mix of length and movement stifled the Wizards. Furthermore, they seemed to actually enjoy playing together, a sign they may have gotten their mojo back, and at exactly the right time.
While it would be worrying for most teams to only score 86 points, there is no doubting the Pacers are a team that will win nine times out of ten when the scores are in the 80s, and they showed that tonight. The play of Hibbert made this defensive dominance possible. With continued good form and a collective will to play good defense, there is no doubting that the Pacers have the ability to push aside Washington and challenge Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.