WASHINGTON — The doubts raised about the Indiana Pacers were more than justified. The way they dispatched the Washington Wizards shows that perhaps the Pacers have dismissed any and all dysfunction.
Roy Hibbert revived himself in Game 2. Team defense smothered the way to a win in Game 3. Paul George went off for 39 points in Game 4. And, after an ugly Game 5, David West came up big in the clincher.
West scored 29 points Thursday night, the Pacers blew a 16-point second-half lead but pulled away late in a 93-80 win that ousted the Wizards in six games.
"With all the adversity, we kept pulling together," West said. "Guys just showed unbelievable grit, unbelievable toughness."
So, for all their mysterious slumps and chemistry curiosities, the Pacers are back where they were last season — playing the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Game 1 against the two-time defending NBA champions is Sunday in Indianapolis.
"We just keep a bubble," said Hibbert, whose off-and-on disappearing act was one of the more baffling late-season developments. "We don't try to let our emotions show too much. Sometimes it does. But we stuck together."
Indiana took Miami to seven games a year ago. If the Pacers spread the wealth the way they did against the Wizards, LeBron James and the Heat could be in for a tough series.
On Thursday, it was West's turn. He went 13 for 26 from the field — a career playoff-high in shot attempts. His pair of jumpers, including a tough fade-away, started a game-ending 20-6 run after Bradley Beal's 3-pointer gave the Wizards a one-point lead with 8½ minutes to play.
"When David West has that look, when he's assertive and he demands the ball, I know we're in good hands," said George, who was just 4 for 11 and scored 12 points. "He's never failed us when he's given us that look and he's told us in the huddles, 'Get me the ball.'"