May 08, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs: Roy Hibbert emerges when Pacers need him most

Pacers 86, Wizards 82 (Series tied 1-1)
Roy Hibbert: 28 points (10-13 FG,) 9 rebounds, 2 blocks
Marcin Gortat: 21 points (10-15 FG,) 11 rebounds

Roy Hibbert's 2014 NBA Playoff experience has simply been a disastrous whirlwind, as he's registered a number of lowly performances for a player that was named an NBA all-star. His statistical shortcomings have been well documented, and subject to mocking from former NBA stars Tracy McGrady and Gilbert Arenas, in addition to the faithful patrons on forums and other forms of social media.

The Pacers dreaded the thought of being down 2-0 in the eastern conference semifinals, and having to march into Washington D.C. to play a third and fourth game in front of what is sure to be psychotic Wizards crowd.

Roy Hibbert's 28 point, 9 rebound and 2 block performance ensured Indiana a tie in the series at 1-1, and an improved sense of confidence as the series changes scenery to the nation's capital.

In his previous four games, Hibbert's output was downright embarrassing and laughable, as he totaled 13 points, 6 made field goals and 9 rebounds in a total of 73 minutes. In three of those four games, Hibbert remained scoreless, parked on the bench, head hung low and his confidence in shambles.
His body language reeked of doubt and worry, as he became the subject of much scrunity and criticism. Many of those in the realm of social media called for the benching of Roy, and other analysts and media outlets beckoned for the Pacers to play what has seemingly become the norm in the association in "small ball."

The Pacers however, vowed never to abandon their all-star, even as he became the first player since the 1960's to be named an all-star in the regular season and not score in back to back postseason contests.

After the Pacers were trumped 102-96 in game one of the semis, Paul George exclaimed "we really need Roy Hibbert, and we need him now."

Tonight, Hibbert answered George's call, but one has to wonder if Roy will turn into a reliable interior figure for the remainder of the postseason? Roy produced an all-star performance tonight, but the superstars in this league make these type of marquee performances a consistent thing throughout the regular season and playoffs.

The former Georgetown Hoya acknowledged his ongoing battle with consistency, as he stated post game "I just want to string a few games together. Consistency hasn't been my biggest friend this year." For Hibbert and especially the Pacers, improving their rocky relationship with the concept of consistency isn't such a bad idea, even if it's coming at such a late juncture in the season.

From Washington's standpoint, they will live with Hibbert's breakout performance, as they surly do not fear a Roy Hibbert eccentric offense as much as they fear a Paul George and or Lance Stephenson eccentric offense that is sure to present big plays and some perimeter magic. 

George and Stephenson both struggled tonight, going 5-13 and 3-12 respectively, but they both hit key buckets when their ballclub needed them most.

Most importantly, they provided Hibbert with a flicker of hope and a temporary sense of confidence. They actively looked for Hibbert, who maintained aggressiveness all night long. He punished the Wizard's defense with quick striking, powerful moves. 

He was as impressive as he's been all postseason and possibly since the all-star break, as Indiana looks to break out of the lengthy lull they've been in, and hit a stride that will allow fans to recognize them as the true title contender many thought them to be at the beginning of the 2013-14 regular season.

For too long, the Pacers have flirted with an unexpected early playoff flameout. They have come frighteningly close with the prospect of waltzing off into a summer of frustration and an intense irateness. 

With every fantastic Hibbert performance, the Pacers will continue to distance themselves from this horrific notion. Tonight at Banker's Life Fieldhouse the crowd and world got their first glimpse of this fact. Hibbert's energy was at it's zenith, and his dominance was in full force. 

Roy may not ever possess the offensive wit that makes Tim Duncan one of the greatest players of all time. He may never leave imprints on a game physically or athletically like Dwight Howard is able to on a nightly basis. Hibbert may never hone his skills, and add a sleek and impressive polish to his game such as Blake Griffin has been able to.

What Hibbert can do is continue to work hard and  be thankful for the opportunity afforded to him. Under any other circumstance, a coach would've yanked Hibbert from the starting unit, and sat him on the bench as the playoff wars waged on.

Frank Vogel, under an intense amount of pressure from the media and even those in Indiana's front office, stood by his convictions and it finally proved to pay off. Roy Hibbert blocked out all the uncertainty tonight and showcased a great deal of promise for this Pacers squad.

He exerted maximum energy on the defensive end, and his eagerness to succeed along with his assertive nature resulted in a buzz worthy performance.

Will Hibbert continue to produce like this going forward? Truth be told, seeing this type of production out of Roy on a nightly basis would be a pleasant and welcomed surprised for Indy. But, if Roy can mimic this performance in the slightest bit, the glimmer of hope for Indiana's championship run just got much bigger and brighter. 

Roy Hibbert vowed to be more aggressive in game two. He answered the call, and exceeded all expectations. Even though it's just one game and one night, this is a huge stepping stone for Roy and this Pacers team. Has the giant finally awoken from his extended slumber? Where Indiana end's up finishing this season may be the perfect indicator for this. But for now, Hibbert must continue to take it one game at a time. 

Is this the beginning of a string of dominant performances for Hibbert, or simply just a fluke? Share thoughts and opinions with me on Twitter (@wcboyer24) and continue to support The Basketball Society. 

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