After a successful stint in the 2013 NBA playoffs, Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert has largely been a missing man in this year’s postseason. That didn’t change in Indy’s first game of the second round as Hibbert was again M.I.A, turning in a lifeless zero-point, zero-rebound performance in 18 miserable minutes. That prompted the team to call him out in an effort to get him going.
Whatever they said seemed to work.
Following that horrific Game 1, Hibbert turned in a show for the ages with a game-high 28 points and team-best nine rebounds in Game 2. The difference between Wednesday’s contest and the way he’s played the rest of the playoffs was night and day, and his performance led the Pacers to an 86-82 victory to tie up the series.
Not only was his play sorely needed, but it came right on time since the rest of Indiana’s team largely struggled. Star Paul George was held to only 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting. David West had a similarly rough night with only nine points. The starting backcourt of Lance Stephenson and George Hill combined for 26, but were hardly efficient, needing 24 shots to achieve that total. Even the bench contributed only 12 points – albeit in fairly limited action.
Without Hibbert, there’s a good chance the Pacers would be facing an 0-2 hole.
That point really underscores what I stated before – the center is desperately needed if the team is going to achieve its goal of reaching the NBA Finals. That kind of talk seems improbable right now with the way the Pacers have struggled, but they will have home court advantage if they can take care of the Wizards, presumably against the Miami Heat. With a motivated Hibbert, Indiana is a completely different team.
The calls to bench Hibbert earlier were understandable. However, that wasn’t going to drastically help since Indiana doesn’t have a viable option to replace him (no, Ian Mahinmi doesn’t count). It’s either sink or swim with Hibbert, really.
It’s anybody’s guess if he can continue this type of play. Given the difficult games he’s had, it doesn’t seem all that possible. The thing to remember, though, is that he doesn’t need to be Superman. All Indiana needs are solid games from Hibbert and if they get them, don’t count the team out of the Finals hunt just yet.