In the third quarter the Pacers trailed 57-38 to the Wizards and looking dead to rights as the lackluster Pacers had returned.
Then the it began to happen. The Pacers began to look like the number one seed, the league’s best defense and everything else they looked like for most of the season. They only led for about a minute, but Indiana lead when the final buzzer sounded and that’s all that matters.
How’d that happen?
Indiana shot 50% from the field while the Pacers defense kept Washington to just over 35% shooting. They did it by Paul George knocking down 6-of-8 3-pointers. It doesn’t hurt either when Roy Hibbert goes 5-of-7 on the interior as well. Those two alone put together a strong inside out attack and David West opened up the mid-range with 3-of-3 from behind the arc. George Hill and Lance Stephenson didn’t shoot well but they combined for 8 assists, 7 points, 6 rebounds and 1 steal. The Five all had 118+ offensive ratings in the second half.
PG’s second half was highlighted by those three-pointers that gave him a 97.2 True Shooting percentage during that time. Impressively this was really him just taking advantage of his touches. Paul George only had a 28.4% usage rate in the second half of Game 4, barely more than the regular season average of 25.6%. Only two of those shots were heat checks (he made 1 of 2), the rest were just within the flow of the game: three came off of screens, including his near 4-point play, and a pair of blown assignments by the Wizards became 6 points for PG.
Roy took advantage of his chances as well. He made sure to put himself it to position in a few different ways: two put backs, positioning himself already turning to the basket for an entry pass to make it easier, drifting away from his defender as Lance drove and then dropped off a pass, and then finally that baby hook towards the end of the game.
It is a cliché, but The Five just played their style and it worked.
West, George, and Hibbert took the shots they were given and made them. Even though Hill and Stephenson didn’t have the points, their passes led directly to a number of Indiana baskets. Other than George hitting a ridiculous number of three pointers, it was just a simple case of taking what Washington gave them and taking advantage of it.
While the offense was running smoothly, every Pacers starter had sub-80 defensive ratings in the second half.
Roy. Roy, effing, Hibbert.
On Monday’s Eye on Basketball Podcast, Matt Moore pointed out that the Pacers are -23.3 points with Hibbert off the floor and +24.1 with him on — nearly 47 points better with him on the floor. You do that by defending the basket at a clip of 6.7% (1-of-15 shooting for the Wizards at the basket in the second half, per NBA.com).
Hibbert also grabbed 7-of-17 rebounds he had a chance at in the game, and his impact was felt even if he didn’t get the rebound: Indiana grabbed 56.7% of the rebounds in Game 4 when Roy was on the floor, only 37.5 percent when he was on the bench for nine minutes.
I don’t know where post-Bynum signing to pre-Bynum cutting went, but I’m glad he’s gone. I don’t know if this surge has anything to do with Bynum, fishing trips, or anything else, but he picked a great time to stop being terrible.
Hibbert’s play allowed the team to do what they normally do defensively. As a team they forced tough shots near the basket to force the Wizards into 7 of 20 shooting in the restricted area, letting them shoot midrange (4-of-7) and defending the 3-point line.
It was a perfect storm for Indiana on Sunday night, at they look to continue to impose their will in Game 5 to end the series early.