On Wednesday night, the Miami Heat advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals (again) after their Game 5 win over the Brooklyn Nets. Thursday, the Indiana Pacers clinched their series as well and will now meet Miami for a second straight year with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line.
Like Miami the night before, Indiana ran into their own problems before winning late over the Washington Wizards, 93-80. The Pacers dominated their game with the Wizards throughout much of the game and held a commanding 69-55 lead with under four minutes in the third quarter. Despite falling behind, Washington wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel and staged a furious rally.
By the end of the third, the Wizards cut that 14-point deficit down to eight. An 11-2 run to start the fourth quarter actually put Washington ahead 74-73. The team used a balanced attack to play catchup as five different players scored during that 15-point swing and things were just going their way.
Just as Brooklyn did against Miami, however, Washington went cold. Actually, ‘cold’ is an understatement.
After that slim lead, the Wizards proceeded to shoot a miserable 2-14 from the floor. In addition, Washington had just as difficult of a time keeping possession of the ball. Over the final 5 and a half minutes of the game, the Wizards were forced into four disappointing turnovers as well and their offensive efficiency went out the window.
Really, it was a prime example of just how difficult it is to make large comebacks while coming out on the winning end of a game. Often, a team expends all of its energy in the comeback that nothing is left over.
Washington put up a valiant fight and when you consider that the team wildly overachieved this year, it’s a little easier for them to stomach. Still, all in all, it had to be a terribly frustrating game for Washington. Having fought their way back from such a large deficit, to completely falter down the stretch (on their home court, no less) was just difficult to watch. A win would have forced a Game 7 and anything could have happened in a one-game scenario.
With one of the best young backcourts in the NBA in John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards’ future is more than bright. The team’s Game 6 collapse at the hand of the Pacers, though, proved the franchise isn’t quite ready for prime time just yet.