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For Indiana forward David West and the challenge that is the Washington Wizards, Game 6 and their own inconsistent vulnerability, this much is clear:
“If we want this series,” he said, “we're going to have to take it.”
The debacle from Tuesday's 102-79 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse still resonates. The Pacers played the patsy at home, once again turning home-court advantage and their No. 1 seed into myth.
“It wasn't like they beat us on a buzzer beater,” forward Paul George said. “They manhandled us. They really just destroyed us in every part of the game.”
Now they get a second chance to win the best-of-seven series. It comes tonight at Washington with a 3-2 series lead and a resolve hardened by embarrassment.
“We'll come out with more energy and effort,” guard George Hill said. “We have to go in with a must-win mentality.”
The Wizards owned that mentality on Tuesday night, and that was reflected most by the 39-rebound disparity. It can't happen again, George said.
“We have to rebound. We have to do a great job of making them uncomfortable. We have to cut them off at the fast break.”
Washington thrives with a fast-break attack. Point guard John Wall leads the way and he was a big-time leader Tuesday night with 27 points. He, along with center Marcin Gortat (31 points, 16 rebounds) were the major reasons why the Wizards are still alive.
“It's not about numbers, it's about pace of play,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “And what is John doing? He gets the ball moving form side to side, and we get bodies moving. He was the spark behind that.”
Gortat was the flame. He totally dominated his matchup with Indiana center Roy Hibbert (four points, two rebounds).
“Gortat was unbelievable,” West said. “You can't allow that type of game. We haven't allowed those types of games from people throughout the postseason.”
Hill took Wall's big night personally after guarding him much of the time.
“I've got to get better at making it tough on him again and not let him get off like that.”
Indiana might have an edge at the Verizon Center given Washington is just 1-3 at home in the playoffs, including 0-2 against the Pacers.
“Everybody knows how we play at home,” Gortat said with a laugh. “We struggle at home. I have a feeling we'll feel the pressure at home. We have a young team. We need to play the best game of our lives.”
Indiana, meanwhile, is 4-1 on the road in the playoffs, and have followed every playoff loss with a victory.
“We've responded well with loses in the playoffs,” George said, “and we intend to do the same at Washington.
“We play with poise and are under control when our backs are against the wall. That's why I'm encouraged. We know we can win on the road. We know we can't bring the effort we did on Tuesday or we'll be looking at a Game 7.”