Sixth-year Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert has been one of the top big men in the Eastern Conference the past few seasons. In this year’s playoffs, though, he hasn’t been the same player – and it’s starting to cost his team when it matters most.
Hibbert, along with the rest of Indiana’s frontcourt, is often cited as a reason why this may be the year the Pacers knock off the defending champion Miami Heat. So far, though, he’s a reason they may not even get out of the first round against the Atlanta Hawks.
This year, Hibbert averaged 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in the regular season. Over the past two seasons, he’s averaged over 12 points and eight rebounds. So far, though, Hibbert isn’t doing nearly as much damage in the postseason. Contributing only 6.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest in the Pacers’ three playoff games, the center hasn’t contributed nearly enough.
That lack of production has forced him to the bench more than usual. This season, Hibbert averaged nearly 30 minutes a game and in the postseason last year, he played over 36 minutes per contest. In the Hawks series, he’s getting only 24 minutes per night. Hibbert is also on a downward trend, playing less as the series moves forward. In the opener, he received 30 minutes. By Game 2 he was down to 24. In the pivotal Game 3 on Thursday, he played a disappointing 19.
For someone who played nearly twice as much as that in last year’s postseason, it’s easy to see that Hibbert is falling out of favor.
The puzzling thing is that it’s not as if Hibbert hasn’t shown that he can star in the playoffs. The big man has averaged nearly a double double over his postseason lifetime and his 13.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game are better than even his career regular season totals (11.2 points and 6.7 rebounds). Last year was a coming out party of sorts when he averaged ten rebounds per game to go along with career postseason highs in points (17.7), field goal percentage (51 percent), and free throw percentage (81 percent).
One thing that’s worth pointing out is that Hibbert has been wildly inconsistent all season. Littered in between dominant performances have been plenty of subpar games. Just as troublesome is that Hibbert isn’t merely in a three-game slump – he’s been playing poorly for the past month.
Since the beginning of April, Hibbert has looked downright bad much of the time. Over his final six regular season games beginning on April 2nd, the center has averaged a meager 5.3 points and 3.2 rebounds. Part of that can be attributed to the Pacers’ lackadaisical approach to the end of the year, but part of it also appears to be Hibbert just being in a funk.
The big man is also a diminished force in the paint on defense right now. Not only is his scoring down, but his rebounding has taken a hit. In addition, while blocked shots may be an underrated stat, they’ve always been a big part of Hibbert’s defensive game. Averaging more than two per contest this year in the regular season, he hasn’t recorded a single block in the three playoff contests so far.
One idea that’s been tossed around is benching Hibbert even more. With the way he’s been playing, it’s difficult to argue against that idea. The problem is that in order for Indiana to win the Eastern Conference, they’re going to need Hibbert. He’s struggling right now, but Indiana’s only true hope is to get him going — and the only way that happens is if he continues to play.
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