The top-seeded Indiana Pacers closed out their seven-game series with the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. Paul George scored 30, he and Lance Stephenson each had double-doubles as the Pacers looked like the Eastern Conference's regular season champions, something they had not been doing that often over the series - or the last two months. Heck, even Roy Hibbert played like a viable NBA center after weeks of looking anything but.
Therefore, Indiana showed enough to justify picking them over the fifth-seeded Washington Wizards in the upcoming second round series, which will open Monday in Indianapolis. Right, Charles Barkley?
"I'm going with the Wizards," Sir Charles said on TNT overnight following the last of three Game 7's played on Saturday. Washington has been cooling its heels in practice mode since Tuesday after finishing off the Chicago Bulls 4-1.
Barkley continued. "The Wizards have impressed me. They've grown up and matured. They have a lot weapons. I think the only reason we didn't know about them sooner is cause Nene could not stay healthy. He's missed a lot of the season and you see how well they can play when he's healthy. I think [Marcin] Gortat is underrated. I think in the next two years that the Wizards are going to have the best backcourt in the NBA. So, I'm going to go with the Wizards."
Not sure what the best backcourt in two years has to do with a series that starts in less than two days. It's also a line Barkley has used before. We get it; he loves John Wall and Bradley Beal. He's digging the big man combo of Nene and Gortat. Most of all, Charles Barkley, the most beloved NBA analyst is still digging the Wizards.
However, apparently not as much as Grant Hill, who sat in for TNT on Saturday in place of Shaquille O'Neal.
"I agree with [Charles]. First of all, I think [the Wizards] have the best backcourt, probably will be in a few years. I like [Trevor] Ariza on George. If Indiana struggled with [Atlanta point Jeff] Teague, they're going to struggle with Wall," Hill said.
"No question," Barkley blurts out. Hill doesn't break with the praise stride.
"Wall's going to go where he wants, get into the paint, finish, find Bradley Beal. Eight weeks ago, I never would have said Indiana would lose to Washington, but I think Washington can beat them - pretty easily. Now, I think it will be a better matchup for Hibbert going against Nene, but Nene is playing well. Gortat will match up well against David West.
That "pretty easily" line caught the ear of host Ernie Johnson, who then repeated the line to Hill, perhaps just to make the sure former NBA great and Northern Virginia native was truly intending to go out on such a limb. He was.
"I trust my eyes," Hill responded. "My eyes have told me as of late that Indiana is not playing great. They won tonight, they played well, but they have to play a lot better against the Wizards."
With a chance to make it a clean sweep for the Wizards, Kenny Smith went the other way and took Indiana, though not without reservations. Smith's take on the Atlanta series essentially involved the notion that the Pacers were "sleepwalking" against the No. 8 seed with a losing record during the regular season but wouldn't in round two.
"My eyes would say Washington," Smith said. "However, I really believe [the Pacers] antennas are up."
Well, two out of three analysts - and a resounding two at that - isn't bad.