As the Pacers evened up their series with the Washington Wizards 1-1, a lot of talk has focused on the disappearing act of Roy Hibbert in the playoffs so far. Hibbert struggled mightily in the Pacers’ series against the Atlanta Hawks. He did worse in Game 1 against the Wizards.
Showing up for Game 7
Roy Hibbert had a disastrous first round series. He averaged a measly 5.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks in the Pacers’ first round series against the Atlanta Hawks. He failed to score double digits in the first six games of the series and averaged only 3.16 rebounds per game in that six game period. But after being a virtual non-factor in the first six games, Hibbert came alive in Game 7 when the Pacers needed him the most. He scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds in Game 7.
But more importantly, he was the anchor of the Pacers’ defense with his five blocked shots. The Pacers were +24 with Hibbert on the floor and Hawks Paul Millsap went 3-12 with Hibbert defending him. The Pacers also clipped the Hawks to a 30.4% field goal shooting.
With their defense clicking, the offense flowed smoothly and Paul George scored a playoff career high of 30 points, Lance Stephenson netted 19 points while George Hill added 15 markers. The result was their most convincing win of the series. The Pacers eliminated the Hawks 92-80 and advanced to the second round against the Wizards.
With the Game 7 win, Indiana and Hibbert seemed to have gotten their games back and everyone was expecting them to topple the Wizards whom they easily beat 2-1 in their regular season series.
Spellbound by a Wizard
But the young Wizards had other plans. In Game 1, the Pacers were left spellbound by Trevor Ariza’s 22 points. The Wizards’ swingman became only the third player in NBA playoffs history to make at least six three pointers without a miss. Bradley Beal also scored 14 of his 25 points in the final stanza.
But the big difference in Game 1 was the big man in the middle for the Pacers- Roy Hibbert. After struggling in the Atlanta series, Hibbert went 0-2 in Game and failed to score a single point and failed to grab a single rebound. A game after he came up in a Game 7, he vanished once again like Houdini in a show.
After Game 1, David West and a couple of veterans gave Hibbert a pep talk to encourage him for Game 2. West said the Hibbert “must be a part of the fight.” Paul George added that they need Roy and that they need him “now.” For his part, Hibbert said that he had to look within himself and figure it out.
The fruitless game one might have awakened the sleeping giant in Roy Hibbert. He scored the first five points of Game 2 and looked very confident from the opening tip. Hibbert finished the game with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in his best game of the post season.
This was the Hibbert everyone knew. He was aggressively looking for his shot all game long. His 13 shot attempts were the most he’s had since April 4. The 10 field goal makes were his most since February 27. Those 9 boards were the most he’s had since March 21. He also went 8-8 from the foul line and those 8 foul shots were the most he’s taken since March 26 while the 8 makes were the most since January 30. So Roy Hibbert didn’t just break out from his slump in Game 2, he had an awakening of sorts.
Man in the Middle
It’s pretty clear that for the Pacers to win, Hibbert must be in the middle of the action. In the Pacers’ playoff wins this season, Hibbert’s averaged 10. per game and grabbed 5.0 rebounds per game. In the losses, he’s managed just 3.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per contest. Hibbert’s also averaged 2 blocks per game in wins and just 0.8 in losses.
In the regular season, the Pacers led the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions by giving up just 96.7 points per game. In their four playoff losses so far, the Pacers have given up an average of 102 points per game. It’s interesting to note that when Hibbert struggles, so does Indiana’s defense. And when that defense struggles, they lose. In eight playoff games so far, Hibbert has been the barometer for the Pacers.
They say that offense wins games but defense wins titles. Roy Hibbert is the anchor of that Indiana defense. And for the Pacers to win, he must show up every single game. Hibbert can’t just blow hot and cold because the Playoffs are getting deeper. And he must realize that he must consistently be the man in the middle of that Indiana Pacers’ team if they want to win the NBA title.