What Indiana Pacers Need from Roy Hibbert During NBA Playoffs

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What Indiana Pacers Need from Roy Hibbert During NBA Playoffs
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In short, the answer to the question is: a lot more than what they're getting.

Or nothing, if you're on board with USA Today's Bob Kravitz calling for Roy Hibbert's head after the Indiana Pacers dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoffs' first round to the No. 8 seed Atlanta Hawks. Kravitz puts forth a controversial yet understandable ultimatum:

Here's the crazy thing: This wasn't a surprise. If you've watched the Pacers closely the second half of this season, this wasn't completely unexpected. This team has lost 13 of its past 23, and two of those victories came with Vogel playing his reserves in an effort to provide the starters with rest. ...

It's time to think about fighting Atlanta's small lineup with a small lineup of their own. It's time to think about sitting Hibbert and starting Ian Mahinmi or playing a lineup that features David West and Luis Scola at power forward and center.

While Vogel will likely be doing no such thing, the effort coming forth from the 7'2" center will not suffice if Indiana is to extend this beautiful nightmare of a season.

Allow Bleacher Report's Jim Cavan to regale you with tales of Hibbert's play lately:

The last time Hibbert recorded more than 10 rebounds in a game was March 21, a stretch that includes nine games in which the Georgetown University product failed to tally more than five boards.

In that span, Hibbert’s rebounding percentage (in short, the percentage of available rebounds a given player actuates) is fourth worst in the NBA among centers (8.7 percent), behind the likes of Jeff Withey, Robert Sacre and—that’s right—Ian Mahinmi.

Since March 11, Hibbert has hit on at least 50 percent of his shots just once—a 92-86 loss to the New York Knicks wherein he hit on eight of his 10 attempts—and has shot 7-of-37 over his last six games.

It doesn't stop there. Per Basketball-Reference.com, the Georgetown Hoya posted defensive ratings of 106 and 111 in March and April after hitting the century mark in that category once over the season's first five months. He blocked nearly a full shot less per game after the All-Star break than before it, and his 13.54 PER is an astonishing 48th among qualified centers, according to ESPN.com! That's Bismack Biyombo territory.

As if life couldn't get any worse for the big fella, he turned in an eight-point, eight-rebound stinker performance in 30 minutes, as the Pacers entered dangerous territory Saturday:

Though his defensive assignment didn't blow the lid off, Pero Antic's eight points fall closer to his expectations than Hibbert's do his. Antic went 2-of-5 from deep, but it's not just the made triples that worry Indiana.

With under six minutes to play in the first quarter, the Pacers' center slogged his way from the paint after giving help on Paul Millsap. Millsap kicked out to Antic, who faded out to the right break, thought about shooting, had afternoon tea and then drained a wide-open three-pointer. It was already his second attempt of the game.

Hibbert and his apathetic worldview of late could learn from Antic's bullishness.

This is a huge red flag whether it's a lack of effort or simply too far a distance for Hibbert to realistically cover in time to get any sort of hand in the Macedonian's face. Watching the replay you have to question whether he really gave it his all.

Either way, Antic will be hanging out with the short guys all series, giving them free pass to the lane. Teague took advantage in Game 1, converting seven layups and getting to the line five times. Atlanta shot 29 free throws in all.

Does Vogel consider switching Hibbert onto the smaller and quicker Paul Millsap? That would shrink his defensive radius, but it gives Antic a two-inch advantage over West and Luis Scola.

And then there's the little matter of the 6'7" Kyle Korver blocking one two Hibbert shots gimmes. Making Korver look like vintage Dwyane Wade is absolutely unacceptable.

It certainly doesn't help his case when he attempts a three in the second quarter of a three-point playoff game when he's taken 20 in his career. All that talk of selfish dudes, maybe Roy Hibbert was talking about Roy Hibbert in the third person.

Remember that part where I suggested Hibbert's inability to contest Antic's trey could have been either from a lack of effort or the long distance from the restricted area to the three-point line? I'm starting to convince myself it's the former. Only it goes deeper:

Andrew Bynum should NEVER be the one trying to get ANYONE going. At least he's holding himself accountable verbally, though it wasn't the most emotive statement. 

“I’m sure we’ll look over film,” Hibbert said after the game, per Cavan's article. “I’m the main culprit in terms of being the weak link on defense because they have a spread-five lineup. So we’ll just have to adjust. We’ll see what happens.”

Ron Hoskins/Getty Images
This face says it all.

Hibbert needs a complete attitude adjustment out of respect for the Pacers' efforts the entire year and especially if he wants to maintain a positive reputation for the remainder of his contract. ESPN.com's Mike Wells points out that he was former president Donnie Walsh and general manager Kevin Pritchard's guy, not current president Larry Bird's.

He has to forget all the talk about not being involved enough in the offense and get back to his strengths: vertical rim protecting and rebounding hustle. 

The crazy part is it's not as if Hibbert has been assaulted with unfair playoff expectations; he provided his own blueprint for how to dominate last year. Indiana can win games without the Hibbert who was two rebounds away from averaging 17 and 10 in last year's postseason, and he isn't the only one at fault for the team's confounding downward spiral.

Heck, film-breakdown wizard Mike Prada of SB Nation even kind of agrees that Kravitz's idea to bench the big man could be Indiana's only option:

Many will call for Vogel to sit Hibbert more often, and there is some merit to that. Unless Elton Brand is in the game, this is a brutal matchup for Roy. He cannot be expected to close out on three-point shooters and simultaneously protect the paint. ...

The best solution, then, is for every other Pacers perimeter defender to step up. They're used to Hibbert covering up any breakdowns, but that's not going to work in this series.

By no means will the Pacers be able to sustain any sort of run in these playoffs if Hibbert fails to turn it around.

 

All stats courtesy of ESPN.com and Basketball-Reference.com

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