INDIANAPOLIS — After being held scoreless in three of his last four playoff games, Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert did the only thing he could think of. He went fishing with teammate Paul George.
On Wednesday, Hibbert hooked the big one. He scored 28 points, just one shy of career playoff best, hit all eight free throws and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds in the Pacers’ 86-82 win over the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Indiana leveled the best-of-seven series at a game apiece. Washington’s Verizon Center will be the venue for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday.
“I haven’t been in the flow of the offense as much, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to go out there and do things,” said Hibbert, whose previous playoff high this season was 13 points against the Atlanta Hawks. “This is just a start.”
Hibbert began the game by scoring two baskets in the first minute, and he finished it by grabbing a rebound of Washington forward Trevor Ariza’s 3-point attempt in the final seconds.
“Roy came out and had a heck of a game, one we all know he’s capable of having,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.
Despite trailing 84-79 with 21.4 seconds left, the Wizards still had a shot at pulling off their fifth consecutive win in the playoffs. Ariza hit a 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds left, but Pacers forward David West sealed the outcome by sinking two free throws with 10.1 seconds to go. Ariza then missed the final shot.
Indiana guard George Hill scored 14 points. Guard Lance Stephenson, who hit a 3-pointer with 21.4 seconds left, giving the Pacers a five-point lead, finished with 12 points.
George, whose primary assignment was to defend Washington guard Bradley Beal, scored 11 and had six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Center Marcin Gortat led Washington with 21 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Beal added 17 points, and forward Nene scored 14.
Hibbert, who was held scoreless Monday in the opening game of the series, established himself immediately. He scored on his first jump shot 30 seconds into the game, then added a three-point play 26 seconds later. Those two plays helped send Indiana to an early 7-0 lead.
By halftime, Hibbert had 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, more than twice the points of any other player on either team.
“Give him credit for shaking off a tough performance in Game 1 and a lot of criticism and coming out and responding,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “He had a big-time night and gave us a big lift. It’s a big reason why we won the game.”
That, and a fishing trip. George invited Hibbert aboard his boat Tuesday at an Indianapolis-area lake to fish for bass.
“We fished for about two hours and just relaxed and didn’t talk about basketball,” Hibbert said. “We just talked about life and tried to catch some bass. He reached out and took my mind off things. Hopefully something I can build on. I really appreciate him reaching out because he didn’t have to.”
George said, “After all he’s been through, everything that’s going on, him day after day just getting killed by the media, I’m happy he was able to come through despite all of that.”
Even with Hibbert’s memorable night, what bothered Wittman was the Wizards’ trouble at the free-throw line. Washington attempted just 12 free throws and made only five of them, a franchise low in the playoffs.
“We left seven points out there with nobody guarding us,” Wittman said.
Nene missed all four of his free throws.
“We need to be better at our free throws if we want to win in the playoffs,” said Gortat, who made one of two. “We have struggled the whole season. In fact, we lost a few games over the course of the year because of it. We will have to work on it and become more confident.”
NOTES: In the first quarter, Washington F Trevor Ariza missed a 3-point shot for the first time in the series. Ariza hit all six 3-pointers he took in Monday’s 102-96 win. Entering Wednesday’s game, he ranked third among all NBA players with a 3-point shooting percentage of .559 in the playoffs. He made two of eight attempts from beyond the arc Wednesday. … Washington G Bradley Beal, 20, is the youngest player in NBA history to score at least 25 points in three playoffs games in one postseason. … Indiana C Andrew Bynum, who played in just two regular-season games after being signed to a one-season deal as a free agent Feb. 1 as a backup to starting C Roy Hibbert, will not be with the team in the playoffs, the Pacers announced Wednesday. Bynum, 26, could not recover from a knee injury. He last played March 15. “He made multiple efforts to try and get out on the court, and his knee wasn’t responding,” coach Frank Vogel said.
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