The Washington Wizards were ready to roll from the opening tip of Game 1 and put forth an impressive effort to keep the Pacers chasing all night. There weren't any overwhelming issues staring at the Pacers after falling behind 0-1, they simply need to play better.
It was a strange game in that neither team was particularly sharp, but the Pacers were beaten badly on effort and execution. This was a game the Pacers could've won by 10 or the Wiz could've won by 30 if either team was rolling on point. Instead, the Pacers are back in a must-win situation for Game 2, which has been the only impetus for sustained fight from this crew so far in the post-season.
Plenty of focus is drawn to Hibbert's double goose egg, but 55 was far from the only problem. Paul George was outplayed by Trevor Ariza as the collective unit of the Pacers were beaten in a variety of ways by the Wiz. But as PG mentioned after the game, getting Hibbert right is the easiest way for the collective game of the Pacers fall into place.
"We need him now," George said from the post-game podium. "I have faith that along the way he's going to find himself. But we're at the point where we're really going to need Roy and we really need him now."
David West was in an agitated state after the game, more likely due to the work Drew Gooden put in on him off the bench for the Wiz than anything else. But he didn't sugar coat his thoughts on Hibbert.
"He's got to be part of the fight," West said. "He's got to be part of this thing for us to go anywhere."
Lance Stephenson also needs to be "part of this thing" for the Pacers. Instead of making a scene when subbed out, as he did late in the third quarter, Stephenson needs to play his role, like it or not. Frank Vogel shouldn't have to stare down a player at a critical juncture in the game to get him past a normal substitution pattern. I wasn't sure Vogel was going to put Stephenson back in, which he did in the fourth quarter, but I would've understood if he didn't.
Following the game, both Stephenson and Hibbert talked about taking their share of the blame and vowing to do more individually in Game 2. As Brent Barry pointed out, no individuals for the Pacers need to do more, the "more" has to be done as a team. Playing as a team, executing the game plan as a team. If individuals try to do more, but that's not part of the game plan, then it is likely wasted energy at a time when the Pacers desperately need to work more efficiently.
This isn't that difficult, though as the Pacers prepare for Game 2 on Wednesday night. Just play better.
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