Paul George had his best game of the series with 23 points and eight rebounds, and the Indiana Pacers held the Washington Wizards to a franchise-low scoring total Friday night in an 85-63 victory for a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Roy Hibbert was again a factor for Indiana with 14 points, five rebounds and three blocks.
Washington made only 24 field goals, a team postseason worst, on 73 attempts, 32.9%. That included four of 16 on three-point attempts, and it didn’t get much better on free throws, where the Wizards were 11 of 21.
“This was probably the ugliest game of the postseason thus far. This is our style of basketball,” George said. “That’s what we do. Whether you like it or not, are a fan of watching our games or not, defense is what we hang our hats on.”
The Wizards never had scored fewer than 75 points in a playoff game — the previous low came in a first-round series-ending victory against Chicago 1 1/2 weeks ago — or fewer than 64 in a regular-season game. The 63 points also matched the fourth-lowest total by any club since 1954-55, according to STATS.
“They took us out of our comfort zone offensively,” Wizards forward Drew Gooden said. “We were overly confident. … This is a humbling experience for us.”
So much for the bandwagon-hopping in Washington. There were boos on occasion, and most of the fans started heading to the exits after George’s 3 with 3 1/2 minutes left made it 75-58.
Game 4 is Sunday night in Washington.
George came in averaging 14.5 points and six rebounds after two games against the Wizards, but he overcame a slow start on a night filled with plenty of ugly offense from both teams.
The score was 17-all after the first quarter, and Indiana led 34-33 at halftime. It was only the 13th NBA playoff game in the shot-clock era, which dates to the 1954-55 season, that two teams combined for 67 or fewer first-half points, STATS said. The record of 60 came in a 2004 game between Indiana and Detroit.
Washington point guard John Wall came in with five turnovers in his previous four games, but he had seven Friday, to go along with 15 points and six assists. Bradley Beal scored 16 points but shot 6 for 19. Trevor Ariza had 12 points, but zero in the second half. Marcin Gortat scored four points one game after having 21. And Nene had eight points on 3-of-14 shooting and only three rebounds.
“A clunker,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said.
Perhaps Washington’s woes shouldn’t have been too surprising, given that the Pacers ranked No. 2 in the 30-team NBA in team defense during the regular season, allowing only 92.3 points per game. Not only that, but Washington’s two lowest-scoring games all season — 66 points in one, 73 in the other — came in losses to Indiana.
“When our defense is set, when our defense is engaged, we’re tough to score against,” Indiana forward David West said.
When their offense sagged in the third quarter, the Wizards appeared to lose interest at the defensive end. Right after a Wall-to-Beal alley-oop got the crowd loud in third quarter, the Pacers went on a 12-0 run with five players scoring, including Hibbert, who also contributed a tumbling tip of a missed shot at the offensive end to keep possession.
Hibbert made a twisting lefty shot in the point to put the Pacers ahead 50-38 midway through the period, a 12-point spread that was the largest for either team until then.
But the Pacers kept adding on, going up by as many as 17 before taking a 60-45 edge into the fourth quarter.
After a zero-point, zero-rebound disaster in a Game 1 loss, then a 28-point, nine-rebound domination in a Game 2 victory, Hibbert shot 6 for 9.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel was asked before tip-off if he knew which version of Hibbert would show up Friday.
Vogel’s reply, offered with a smile: “Probably somewhere in the middle of Game 1 and Game 2.”
Turned out exactly right.