It’s possible that we won’t actually get around to recapping Indy’s 96 to 118 loss to the Lakers tonight, but I did want to at least discuss the bigger issue surrounding tonight’s Pacers game: Going small.
For the second straight game, Coach O’Brien went with Troy Murphy at center and Danny Granger at power forward (although he did sit Luther Head in favor of Dahntay Jones, who started on the perimeter along with Brandon Rush and Earl Watson, both of whom were also small-ball starters versus Philly on Monday). This again left Roy Hibbert coming off the bench.
“I can be even more aggressive off the bench because I get a chance to really watch the game, see what’s going on and see if I can make some adjustments,” Hibbert said. “I feel just as comfortable coming off the bench as I do being a starter.
“It’s (playing against) a group of guys that are probably more tired and I get to be more aggressive, get more calls or whatever. I can try to be more of an impact player when I come off the bench.”
Is he happy playing the Manu Ginobili/Jason Terry role or is he just playing the good soldier?
Regardless, it was effective tonight for Roy individually, as he put up 21 points on 10/18 shooting in 28 minutes, which is actually 5 minutes more than his season average of 23-and-a-half minutes per game. And for Roy, playing well off the bench is not just something he talks about or did well tonight — it’s the norm.
Hibbert has actually been more productive as a reserve this season, averaging 22.0 minutes, 13.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and .526 shooting in eight games. In 38 starts, he averaged 24.1 minutes, 10.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and .486 shooting.
Tim will be breaking down Indy’s small ball lineups more tomorrow, so the only other thing I’ll add is that, while Andrew Bynum clearly feasted on the little guys, it wasn’t like Hibbert slowed him down at all. (Andrew finished 12/14 for 27 points to go along with 12 boards and was as unfazed by Roy as he was anything else — including gravity). Perhaps Roy’s presence down low could have stopped Bynum from becoming so comfortable early — and thus his game-long low-block domination — but that’s definitely a “What If?” game that isn’t going to get a lot of support given Hibbert’s movable-object D tonight.
I personally don’t know how I feel about it.
If Roy is going to be a part of the future, he should obviously be getting as many minutes as he can handle. But since I don’t think he is physically capable of playing much more than 30 anyway at this stage of his development (or perhaps ever, honestly), as long as he’s getting his 28 minutes, the debate may just be semantics. The defense was ugly without him out there early, but the team at least scored on the other end throughout the first quarter — for the second straight game, it’s important to note.
Shaq, Big Z, Sideshow Varejao and JJ Hickson are coming to town on Friday, so it’s not like the match ups are getting any more favorable immediately. Should be interesting, and since that’s pretty irregular so far this year, I guess it can’t be all bad.