Roy Hibbert's 13-point, seven-rebound effort in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Atlanta Hawks feels like a distant memory following another disastrous outing to open up the Indiana Pacers' second-round series with the Washington Wizards.
In the 102-96 Game 1 loss, Hibbert flopped in epic fashion yet again. Specifically, the two-time All-Star tallied zero points (0-of-2 shooting), zero rebounds, two blocks, one assist and five personal fouls in 18 minutes.
Not only that, but the Pacers were also a team-worst minus-17 with Hibbert on the floor, which caused emotions to run high following the defeat:
And you better believe David West wasn't the only one pleading for Hibbert to ramp up his energy in the coming days.
According to the Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner, Pacers swingman Paul George stressed how vital an engaged Hibbert is to the team's fading title aspirations, saying, "We’re at the point where we really need Roy and we need him now."
However, George continued to back the Pacers' man in the middle, according to CSN Washington's J. Michael:
Hibbert even acknowledged that he needs to play a key role, particularly against a young Wizards team whose confidence is spiking at just the right time:
On a night when the Pacers were outrebounded 53-36, including 17-6 on the offensive glass, Indiana could have desperately used a throwback performance from Hibbert.
However, Frank Vogel's squad lacked continuity on both ends of the floor throughout, a disturbing trend that doesn't appear to be on the verge of subsiding, according to CBS Sports' Matt Moore:
Frank Vogel went to smaller lineups to try and get the offense going... and the defense fell apart. He went big to try and slow down the offense, and the Pacers' scoring died. There's no balance with the Pacers right now, especially when George plays that way.
There's plenty of time for the Pacers to bounce back (heck, we saw them do it in the first round against the Hawks), but the fact that Hibbert's scored zero points in three of his last four games signals that the formerly acclaimed center is on the verge of collapsing like we've never seen a player collapse before.
Matched up against a Wizards defense that's surrendered just 99.6 points per 100 possessions through six playoff games, according to NBA.com's stats database, there don't figure to be many opportunities for Hibbert to prove himself against Marcin Gortat and Co. on the blocks.
What remains to be seen is whether Vogel will soon jettison Hibbert from the team's starting lineup, which he's been reluctant to do during this painful stretch. Although his minutes have decreased significantly of late, dropping Hibbert from the rotation altogether could be detrimental to the big man's psyche long-term.
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