To run, as the Washington Wizards desire with their every breath, rebounding is a must. Facing their playoff mortality, the Wizards indeed boarded like their life depended on it.
Washington finished Game 5 with an unreal 62-23 advantage on the glass en route to the 102-79 thrashing. For you non-math majors, that's a +39. During the regular season, the Wizards' best effort in that category was a +20.
Oh, we're talking about doing this against an Indiana squad that finished third in rebounding differential during the regular season. We're talking about the Wizards rallying after blowing a 19-point lead in Game 4's 95-92 loss on Sunday.
In that rebounding differential category, Washington clocked in at 18th during the regular season. Goes without saying they clocked the Pacers in just about every facet, especially on the boards.
Marcin Gortat, who had three rebounds and two points in Game 4, finished with 16 rebounds including seven of Washington's 18 offensive rebounds along with 31 points on 13 of 15 shooting from the field. Trevor Ariza had 10 rebounds and Drew Gooden added nine. Washington's starting five outrebounded Indiana's 43-11.
All of that effort led to their desired up-tempo pace. Washington had 17 fast break points. As a reminder, they had just nine in Games 2 and 3 combined and zero in the second half of Game 4.
Now, the Wizards have outrebounded the Pacers in four of five games. Part of that stems from Indiana's desire to send players back on defense as fast break protection. That doesn't explain 62-23, not even close. What does? Effort - and the Polish Machine.
"Obviously nobody was happy with Game 4," Gortat told reporters on Tuesday. "Personally for me it was one big hell. Today was a little bit better but that’s the NBA. The good thing is you have another game in 48 hours. I was glad that I was able to help my team this time. I told them I want to contribute."
Gortat outrebounded the Pacers by himself in the third quarter and matched Indiana in the first and second quarter. That's right, one man battled an entire team on the boards for the first three quarters and actually finished with a 16-15 edge after three.
His teammates helped plenty throughout, specifically in the third. Washington led 45-38 at halftime and then essentially won the game by outscoring the Pacers 31-14 in the third. An even more decisive stat, Washington outrebounded Indiana 18-4 in the period. Gortat and Gooden each had more rebounds (5) than the Pacers while John Wall and Trevor Ariza both matched Indiana's total.
"They had a greater will. They played desperation basketball tonight," Pacers forward Paul George said after the loss.
George finished with only one rebound, which was one more than fellow starter Lance Stephenson. Indiana's top two rebounders in the postseason, George and Stephenson averaged 18 boards through the Pacers' first 11 games of the playoffs.
As for the series' barometer, 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert looked more like Game 1 Hibbert after three straight strong outings. He finished with two rebounds along with four points in 25 minutes, many matched up against Gortat.
One series constant, the Wizards struggles at the Verizon Center, which is where Game 6 will take place on Thursday.
"It sounds crazy," Gortat said to CSN's Chris Miller with a smile, "but it's unfortunate we have to play at home."
Washington just showed it can rebound on the road. To force a Game 7, Gortat and his teammates must do that at home in more ways than one.