Indiana Pacers

Why Benching Roy Hibbert Was Completely Wrong, Even If It Made Sense

MIAMI, FL - MAY 22: Head coach Frank Vogel of the Indiana Pacers reacts to a call in the second half against the Miami Heat during Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena on May 22, 2013 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Chris LandersContributor IIIMay 23, 2013

There is a legitimate argument to be made for keeping Roy Hibbert off the floor during the two most crucial possessions of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Head coach Frank Vogel wanted to be able to switch on every screen, and having the lumbering 7-footer on the floor would become a liability.

Vogel knew Erik Spoelstra would try to exploit that mismatch, forcing Hibbert onto a smaller and quicker guy who could penetrate and kick to one of the Heat's many lethal outside shooters.

In theory, having Hibbert on the floor might have compromised Indiana defensively, with Miami's small-ball lineup exploiting its quickness advantage during the game's final seconds. 

But what Vogel forgot is that these games aren't played in theory, that sometimes strategy simply has to go out the window. Vogel simply out-thought himself, veering away from his team's strengths and philosophy during the two most important possessions of their season. 

The Pacers are not the Miami Heat. They don't have the personnel or depth to match Miami by going small—their roster is built from the inside out, starting with their all-world defensive center.

Trying to match another team's strengths and sacrificing your own in the process is a fatal mistake—something the Knicks learned the hard way in the previous round, where Mike Woodson's experiments with a big lineup in Game 4 backfired colossally—and you can be sure that Spoelstra was thrilled when he saw No. 55 off the floor in the final seconds. 

Vogel tried to turn his team into something they're not, and it resulted in Sam Young—Sam freakin' Young!—to be on the floor in the pivotal moments of a game Indiana really needed to have.

Sure, there are others to blame, most notably Paul George for overplaying LeBron after he caught the inbounds pass. But the Pacers can only win this series if they stay true to what got them here, to what gave them a last-second lead against the defending champs in their building.

They need to pound away at the Heat, wear them down with their size and strength and not try to morph into the small-ball team they clearly aren't.

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