Roy Hibbert generally plays well against traditional big men. For example, Roy has usually scored efficiently and generally played well against Tim Duncan and against Andrew Bynum and against Andrew Bogut. On the other hand, he often has been an abject disaster against a lot of smaller guys, like when he plays Al Horford and goes up against teams featuring Amar’e Stoudemire.
There are likely many reasons, but one explanation I have always leaned on is that Roy plays his best when he is in his comfort zone. He likes to establish positions and show big against guys who stand behind him and react to his moves. When the defender is rushing around trying to front, playing side position and using other fancy techniques (pulling the chair, for example), some of Hibbert’s effectiveness gets lost in the muddle. He thrives among organization and reliability but falters amidst chaos and improvisation. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s just a general observation I have developed over time.
One tradition center he has generally struggled against, however, is the only great one left: Dwight Howard. Not only have the Pacers gone 2-9 in their 11 head-to-head match-ups since Roy entered the league in 2008, Hibbert has had some real struggle games whereas Howard has put up some monster numbers.
It will be interesting to see if Hibbert’s excellent play so far this year continues tonight as the Pacers host the Magic, a team that managed to score only 56 points last night against the Celtics. In the lead up, here’s a breakdown of how each has fared individually when Indiana and Orlando has clashed. I’ve highlighted the individual “winner” for each in yellow — which means I highlighted Dwight’s name 10 times. (Roy did notably score a career-high 26 points against Dwight in January 2010.)
Game 1 – November 21, 2008: Orlando 100 – Indiana 98
Game 2 – November 29, 2008: Orlando 110 – Indiana 96
Game 3 – January 27, 2009: Orlando 135 – Indiana 111
Game 4 – February 6, 2009: Indiana 107 – Orlando 102
Game 5 – December 14, 2009: Orlando 106 – Indiana 98
Game 6 – January 5, 2010: Indiana 97 – Orlando 90
From the 89ps recap: “The Pacers beat the Magic, 97-90 and Roy Hibbert was the star of the game, dropping a career-high 26 points. To think going into this game that Roy was going to shut down the NBA’s premier center, this game should have been a sell-out.”
Game 7 – January 20, 2010: Orlando 109 – Indiana 98
From the 8p9s recap: “Hibbert was virtually worthless this time against Dwight after having perhaps the best game of his career against Superman last time out. 3 points and 3 boards in 18 minutes. Thanks for coming out.”
Game 8 – April 12, 2010: Orlando 118 – Indiana 98
From the 8p9s recap: “What last night reminds us of was how thin the margin of error is for this team. It reminds us that, if Danny can’t get it going, and if Roy can’t get it going, then it’s all over but the shouting.”
Game 9 – November 20, 2010: Orlando 90 – Indiana 86
Game 10 – January 26, 2011: Orlando 111 – Indiana 96
From the 8p9s recap: “the Orlando Magic made 16 of the 34 triples they took (47.1%) on their way to to a 15-point win that felt more like a shutout.”
Game 11 – April 13, 2011: Orlando 92 – Indiana 74
From the 8p9s recap: “The Pacers took this opportunity to rest Danny Granger and Jeff Foster and did not play Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison in the second half.”