Roy Hibbert did more than just survive the Pacers’ three games in three nights, he thrived. NBA teams playing on three consecutive nights is one of the novelties to this condensed season — and one that has brought on a fair amount of negative attention. It is so grueling and demanding on the body that in a normal season, it happens exactly zero times.
But this is not a normal season and no matter what team you play for you have to pack a lot of games into a short amount of time. According to some critics, this has led to a lot of poor performance, specifically crappy shooting and scoring. When fatigue really starts to kick in, the shot is often the first thing to go. When you have played intense games for three straight nights even the most conditioned athletes will start to feel that “fourth quarter fatigue” some time closer to the second quarter.
So apart from the Pacers’ 2-1 record over the the three-game stretch, the stat that stuck out to me the most was the fact that Roy Hibbert shot over 50% in all three games. Having a center that is so well-conditioned that he can put up efficient numbers in a back-to-back-to-back, as if it didn’t even effect him, is a huge commodity and adds to the value of a player like Hibbert.
Here are the stat lines for Hibbert in the three-game stretch:
Thursday @ Washington
19 points, 8-for-14 FG (57.1%), 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Friday vs. Phoenix
19 points, 7-for-12 FG (58.3%), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks
Saturday @ Milwaukee
16 points, 7-for-11 FG (63.6%), 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 3 blocks
18 ppg, 59.5% shooting (22-for-37 FGs), 8.3 rpg, 1 apg, 1.3 spg, 2.3 bpg
That is a model for consistency. On a game-by-game basis, these stats won’t blow anyone away, but you have to factor in the context. Any team in the league (except perhaps the Magic) would take those stat lines from their center during a back-to-back-to-back in a heartbeat. Over the course of the three games Hibbert shot 59% from the floor. That’s higher than his field goal percentage for the season. This is not normal stuff, people.
It should also be noted that for two of these three games he put up these numbers while having to defend the rim against two highly skilled offensive centers in Nene and Marcin Gortat. In the last game of the three (logically the most difficult on the body), Hibbert faced a less difficult matchup with Drew Gooden. Without the burden of guarding Nene or Gortat, he put up his most efficient night, shooting 63.6% to go with his 9 boards and 3 blocks.
The only matchup that you could say Hibbert “lost” was against Gortat (also the game that the Pacers lost) when the “Polish Hammer” put up 23 points off of 8-for-13 shooting. While some of that can be chalked up to Steve Nash’s 17 assist night, the key word here has been consistency. We have already seen what Hibbert did in three straight nights.
Now, if we take a look back to the most recent Suns’ game prior to their matchup with the Pacers (two nights earlier against the Magic), Gortat struggled mightily with just 4 points off 1-7 shooting. Consistency wins out in the end.
Of course, we should also credit coach Frank Vogel’s choice to monitor Hibbert’s minutes to avoid fatigue or break down as well as the reliability of Hansbrough and Amundson when they come off the bench. Hibbert never reached 35 minutes played in any of the three games.
Hibbert’s play has underwhelmed generally since he played in the All-Star Game. He has scored just 11.6 ppg on 46.9% shooting compared to 13.8 ppg on 51.2% before the break. But now, at a point when NBA players should be starting to hit a wall or go into slumps, Roy seems to be catching a second wind. To put it in the simplest of terms, he’s down in the paint making his shots.
This is exactly what the Pacers should be hoping for because, after a well needed day off, they will take on the Miami Heat on Monday. If the Heat have a weakness it’s a strong interior presence. Mr. Hibbert will have to go to work.