The Wizards avoided elimination by blowing out the Pacers in Indiana in game 5, here are four reasons why.
1. Crashing the Boards
The rebounding margin in game 5 was historically impressive. A +39 rebounding differential against the #2 rebounding team in the NBA, during the regular season isn't just surprising, it's astonishing. Indiana made a conscious effort to slack on the offensive glass so as not to allow too many transition buckets, but it backfired, as Washington still scored 17 fast break points, and Indiana got almost zero second chance opportunities. Meanwhile those second chance opportunities were plentiful for the Wizards who grabbed 18 offensive boards, almost as many as the Pacers total of 23.
2. Marcin Gortat's Dominance
When your big man can't miss, keep getting him the ball. That's what the Wizards did with Gortat, who scored early and often en route to a career-high tying 31 points on 13/15 shooting. He also had 16 boards. He only needed about three quarters to do it as he was subbed out early in the fourth with the game in hand. Gortat put on a clinic against Hibbert, scoring on him in a variety of ways, including hooks, baseline jumpers, putbacks and simply going straight at him. Hibbert had almost zero impact on the game, similar to the way things went in game 1, as he had just four points and two boards. Gortat's impact during games 3 and 4 in Washington meanwhile was minimal, but he showed in game 5 just how important he is to this Washington team.
3. Wall in Attack Mode
Like Gortat, Wall was coming off of a couple of poor performances. He also bounced back in a big way, to the tune of 27 points on 11/20 shooting, five boards and five assists. It wasn't just the stats for Wall, it was the way he attacked Indiana's defense, showing none of the hesitation that many of critics had brought up over the weekend at Verizon Center. During the third quarter, Washington's Achilles heel this series, Wall outscored Indiana all by himself, 17-14, simply taking the team on his back. On the defensive side, Wall handled Hill with aplomb, forcing him into what was by far his worst game of the series. Hill was 1/8 from the field for three points and had a 1:1 assist to turnover ratio in 31 minutes.
4. The Starting Five
Up until the 8:51 mark of the fourth quarter, the starts had accounted for 100% of Washington's offense. The bench's first point, an Al Harrington free throw, didn't come until the Wizards were up by 25. The bench carried Washington for large portions of game 4, but in game 5, it was the Wizards starters who did all of the damage. Overall the starters accounted for 90 of Washington's 102 points. The stars showed up for Washington and it made all the difference.