Most Important Player: Indiana Pacers
Jack Maloney (@jmaloney9): Roy Hibbert
The Washington Wizards played tremendous in the first round against the Bulls, but there’s still no question that the Pacers should be able to beat them handily. They should be able to, but that requires them playing up to the potential they showed in last year’s ECF and the beginning of this season. The most important player therefore, in their quest to regain that moxie they’ve previously shown, is none other than Roy Hibbert. He played great in Game 7 against the Hawks, and going into a matchup with Nene and Marcin Gortat, he’ll have to keep that up.
Matthew Hochberg (@MatthewHochberg): Roy Hibbert
The Pacers squeaked by Atlanta to avoid one of the biggest collapses in recent memory, but the road only gets tougher from here. The team faces a Wizards squad that appeared to be running on all cylinders, led by John Wall and Bradley Beal. But now, to have any chance of making it back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive season, All-Star center Roy Hibbert must regain his form from earlier this season. The 27-year-old is averaging just 5.3 points on 37.2 percent shooting in 21.9 minutes in his seven playoff games thus far.
Sonny Giuliano (@SonnyCG): Roy Hibbert
Have we written off Roy Hibbert at this point or can he still be considered “important” for the Pacers? Regardless, I’m interested in seeing how the struggling big fella will play against a team that is a little more traditional than Indiana’s Round 1 opponent the Atlanta Hawks. Maybe Hibbert will find a comfort zone in Round 2. Or maybe he’ll continue to play like the lovechild of Hasheem Thabeet and Kwame Brown.
Sam Kuperman (@samkoop): Roy Hibbert
Just like I said before the Pacers played in the first round, Roy Hibbert will be the x-factor. Against Atlanta, the Pacers big man was certainly that, but for the wrong reasons. He averaged a mere 5.3 points per game along with 3.7 boards in only 21.9 minutes per contest. Those numbers were obviously much less than his regular season ones as the Hawks nearly shocked the world and took down the top seeded Pacers.
The past is the past, and Hibbert will need to bounce back in the Conference Semifinals if his team wants to advance. When he is playing well Indiana is extremely tough to beat. However, when he struggles it seems to be contagious.
Mike Wesson (@iamWesson): Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert has an APB out for his whereabouts. I just hope they catch him in time for tip-off on Monday night. Just get a bucket and a couple of rebounds Roy… come on.
Most Important Player: Washington Wizards
JM: John Wall
John Wall is, and always has been, the Washington Wizards most important player. He is the metaphorical engine that makes them go and sometimes-unbelievable speeds. Sure, they have important role players like Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster, but their contributions are irrelevant (and non-existant) without Wall. His ability to both score himself, and drive and draw the defense to him frees up shooters like Ariza and Webster. Wall will have a huge advantage over George Hill in this series, and he’ll need to exploit it for the Wizards to advance to the ECF.
The Wizards’ big man will be key in providing offense in the paint and helping stop the Pacers’ frontcourt attack. While Roy Hibbert has endured struggles throughout the playoffs thus far, he ended the series against the Hawks nicely and can certainly turn his game around. The 6-11 Brazilian averaged 20.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in Washington wins in the first-round.
SG: Bradley Beal
For Washington give me Bradley Beal. The 20 year old looked experienced beyond his years at times against the Bulls. If the Wizards can get consistent production from their 2nd year shooting guard they could spring another upset.
SK: Trevor Ariza
If Washington wants to win the series, then containing Paul George is a must. That is where Trevor Ariza comes in. He is the Wizards best perimeter defender and he has the length and athleticism to hang with George at the defensive end.
Ariza is also playing some of the best basketball of his career this year and has even upped that in the postseason as he averaged 15.6 points per game and 8.6 rebounds during the first round series against Chicago. Some great defensive play coupled with an offensive spark from Ariza could help the Wizards pull off the upset.
MW: Trevor Ariza
The person who will be locked up against Paul George for the most in the series—Trevor Ariza—is most important. Plus, his scoring will be important, as he has the potential to make George work on both ends of the floor.
Don’t Overlook ___________:
JM: The Fact that the Wizards haven’t won in Indiana since 2007
That’s a loooonnngggggg time. Without being inside the player’s heads, it’s impossible to say how much of an impact that fact will have, but it certainly won’t help. And if the Wizards want to win the series, they’ll have to win in Indiana, since the Pacers have home court advantage.
MW: Hibbert’s lack of scoring this postseason
Hibbert suffered consecutive scoreless postseason games in the first round, becoming the first same-season All-Star to accomplish this feat since Jim King did in 1968.
SG: George Hill’s (lack) of ability to guard John Wall
Indiana had to make the adjustment to defend Jeff Teague using Paul George. John Wall is a step up from Jeff Teague, and I can’t see George Hill being able to hang with him. Is George prepared to chase around a speedy point guard for a second straight series?
SK: The low-post battle
While most people will focus on the two superstars in this matchup, Paul George for Indiana and John Wall for Washington, this happens to a battle of two of the better frontcourts in the NBA. It will be fun to watch the tandem of David West and Roy Hibbert battle with Nene and Marcin Gortat in the paint.
Gortat specifically has held his own against the Pacers averaging 12.7 points 10.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in the three games these two squads have played this season. The superstar battle will be fun to watch but keep an eye on the battle down low as well, as it could make or break the series for either team.
MW: John Wall’s leadership
John Wall’s leadership will be on display here in this series and will be vital to watch. The Wizards will go as far as he is going to take them. The team shows a lot of composure with him on the floor and will need to while playing Indiana in the second round.
JM: Indiana (reluctantly) in 7
MH: Washington in 7
SG: Indiana in 7
SK: Indiana in 6
MW: Washington in 6