INDIANAPOLIS -- Let's be honest about the crowds for Wizards games at Verizon Center for most of this season. It's not the most vibrant, diehard group of believers. Only when it was certain that this would be a playoff team -- even then there were lulls, and see March 26 in a pivotal home game vs. the Phoenix Suns as Exhibit A -- did the arena show true fire from end-to-end.
"I hope that when we get back to D.C. we're going to see the crowd at least 30 minutes before the game," Wizards center Marcin Gortat said of Friday's Game 3 vs. the Indiana Pacers in their second-round series. "I hope they're going to destroy the arena for us. We need them a lot. We need them just like we need Bradley (Beal) and John (Wall) in this game, and Nene. ... We're going to try to bring it.
The last time the Pacers came here, they ran into a buzz-saw for a 91-78 loss. A victory would return the Pacers home-court advantage after they went 1-1 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
But winning at home hasn't always been easy for Washington, which tied for the best road record in the East during the regular season. In the Wizards' first playoff home game in six years, they disappointed with a three-point loss to the Chicago Bulls on April 25.
"The pressure is on us right now, but there's nothing better than playing at home in front of your own crowd," said Gortat. "Hopefully this time we don't make a mistake like we did with Chicago. We don't trip at home. We need those two games."
A frequent criticism Gortat has made of his team is that they tend to celebrate too much in an effort to play to the crowd and they end up losing focus. Their defense isn't as consistent, which is how Mike Dunleavy surprised them with 35 points in that playoff home loss to Chicago.
"I think these guys already understand playoff basketball. You can't lose games at home. They have to do whatever gets them going," Gortat said. "If they need to play in front of their own crowd, OK let them play but we've got to win the game. We've got to win the game."