How should we feel about this team? Should we be happy about the competitive play, even though the Pacers can’t finish a game? Should we be concerned that Chicago can toy with Indiana for 46 minutes and then always finishes strong?
I think we should be encouraged by the play of this team. When one considers the cap space the team has available this offseason, they can afford to get the type of closer that the Pacers need to finish these games. And looking at the individual starters for the Pacers in this series brings lots of encouraging signs and the potential for a bright future.
Darren Collison really has looked good running the team. His 46.4% shooting percentage has helped the team, but there is no question that he has been a player that the Pacers need on the floor. He needs to work on getting more than 13 assists in two and a half games, but Collison has been a steadying influence on the blue and gold.
Danny Granger is averaging 21.3 points per game, while shooting 49.1% from the field. Granger has stepped up in this series. He was so hot in the fourth quarter of game three that Chicago began to double team him. Granger had the ball at the end of game four, but the Pacers need to make the Bulls pay for double teams by giving him a reliable outlet.
Paul George has been a revelation in this series. His dreadful 22.2% shooting has been overcome by the fact that he is the best defender on the Pacers to cover Derrick Rose. Think about that, a guy George’s size covering the fast, shifty Rose? In conversation, Tim Donahue has compared George to Derrick McKey. For those of you who remember the ex-Pacer, McKey could guard all five positions at times.
Outside of Game 1, Tyler Hansbrough has shot the ball poorly in this series, with an overall 34.9% field goal percentage. If that had happened in mid-season he would have been a non-factor. Instead, he is completely in Carlos Boozer’s head. Make no mistake, Boozer’s trash talking bravado aside, this guy hates playing against Psycho T. That’s something that should make every Pacer fan feel warm and fuzzy.
Now, for something that should not make us feel warm and fuzzy, we move on to Roy Hibbert. Hibbert is among the most popular Pacers. Unfortunately, if he’s not shooting well he’s pretty much useless on the floor. Other than a quick start to game one, he has been dreadful in this series. His 38.5% overall shooting percentage is not as bad as Hansbrough’s or George’s, but then you quickly realize that Hibbert is also shooting 38.5% (5-13) from point blank range in the low post. In game three, nine of Hibbert’s 12 shots were within 10 feet of the basket.
These numbers make Hibbert’s comments after Game 3 to Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star all the more puzzling.
“I’m not getting it where I want it,” said Hibbert. “I don’t want to shoot jump shots. I want to get it in the paint, get it on the block. We’re running other stuff.”
My eyes beg to differ.
The Pacers have consistently tried to get the ball to Hibbert in the low post. Even Hansbrough and Granger, not noted for giving the ball up to teammates, have passed the ball down low to get Hibbert rolling.
The plain and simple fact is that Hibbert has not responded. When you are a low post player, you must establish position and demand the ball. Hibbert has not been doing this on a consistent basis. It’s not a question of Joakim Noah’s defense. It’s a problem that has been there all year.
Fired Pacers coach Jim O’Brien consistently tried to make sure Hibbert got the ball. Hibbert didn’t respond with stellar play. In fact, he had long stretches of poor play in both December and January as the team went into a tail spin. After interim coach Frank Vogel took over, the team had an initial bounce and then Hibbert disappeared again. At that time, it was the re-emergence of Hansbrough in the starting lineup that kick-started the team again.
Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz wrote this after Game 3:
“This is who the Pacers are right now: a half-formed lump of clay, a young, incomplete team that desperately needs a low-post presence who can take over late-game situations.”
I don’t always agree with what Kravitz writes, but he couldn’t be more on the money here. Who do you think that paragraph was directed at?
You know the answer.
His contract will be up after the 2011-12 season (if the impending lockout doesn’t kill next season). How much is Hibbert worth right now?
I certainly would not pay big money to a center who can’t score in the low post when the going gets tough. For most of this season, Hibbert’s play was a microcosm of this team. When things were easy Hibbert and the Pacers would perform well. When there were no expectations on the team, you could count on a good game. If the going got tough they would fold like a cheap tent. That’s how you end up with the staggering number of double-digit losses that this team had this year. Under both O’Brien and Vogel that was a problem.
Now, things seem to have changed. This is a team that is fighting through tough times and making life difficult until the end of three consecutive playoff games for the team with the best record in the NBA.
It would be nice if their center joined the rest of the starters and came along for the ride.