The Indiana Pacers took down the Washington Wizards by a score of 93-80 on Thursday night, cementing their Conference Semifinals series and setting up a mouthwatering match with the Miami Heat. Of course, Indiana didn’t exactly take a perfect path to get to its upcoming series with Miami, but it showed both on Thursday and in the playoffs as a whole that it can beat the Heat.
In their series-clinching win, the Pacers displayed the team-wide defensive dominance that made them Eastern Conference champions in the regular season. Washington was limited to 39.2% shooting from the floor as the result of the constant pressure and physicality that Roy Hibbert, Paul George, David West, Lance Stephenson and George Hill provided throughout the night. Each of these five starters played at least 36 minutes on the night, and while their offensive flow may not have dropped jaws, they showed a grittiness on the defensive end that makes the Pacers a sure bet to win any game in which scoring is in the 80s.
Moving into the series against Miami, there is no doubting that Indiana needs to make every game a grudge match, and to bring a consistent energy to the floor. Furthermore, the likes of George and West will need to step up late in games offensively, make the inevitable big shots that will be needed to win tight games and shift the series’ momentum in the favor of Indiana. With home court advantage, picking up an early series edge will be of huge value, as any potential Game 7 will clearly favor Indiana.
Taking down LeBron James and company is never an easy task, but the Pacers are the only team in the Eastern Conference with the ability to do it, and they have earned their opportunity. Now, it will be up to Indiana to make sure it has permanently forgot how dreadful things had gotten before its relatively easy series win over Washington, and to show the world that Miami isn’t the only team that knows how to turn things on come playoff time.