What did we learn about the Pacers from that crazy loss to the Los Angeles Clippers? We learned a lot, but the main thing is the Roy Hibbert is an integral part to the Pacers success. Thursday night, Hibbert had to serve his one game suspension from his part in a minor scuffle with David Lee and Stephanie Curry. Without Hibbert, the Pacers let the Clips pull ahead in a close game. The Pacers managed to come back at the end, but Chris Paul sealed it with three straight scores.
I’m not going to recap the whole game because I’m sure Ajamie will get to that, but I will take the time to point out a very valuable lesson to be learned from this contest. What we learned is that Roy Hibbert has earned his paycheck this season. In the summer of 2012 Hibbert signed a 4 year/$58 million contract. The Pacers were essentially saying that Roy is the force in the middle that this team can be built around. It’s been no secret that Hibbert has been underwhelming on the offensive end. No 7’2” human being should MISS MORE THAN 50% OF HIS SHOTS. He’s only averaging 10 points a game, which is not what people expected from the guy who’s earning maximum dollar bills. All of that is valid fodder against Hibbert, but we need to remember that basketball is half defense.
Hibbert has been outstanding on the defensive end. His length is more of an asset than ever because of the lack of flopping leaguewide, which has allowed him to raise his blocks per game to 2.6, his current career high. Beyond blocks, his presence inside resembles that of the Boogey Man in a little girl’s closet. Guys know he’s in there (the paint in Hibbert’s case), and are afraid to enter his domain. This was evident tonight when the Pacers were in the midst of a furious comeback. Every time the Pacers were within one basket, Chris Paul would find his way to the basket and convert on the lay in. If Hibbert weren’t suspended, those baskets don’t happen.
I’m not saying the Pacers would have beaten the Clippers on Thursday, but with Hibbert that’s a completely different game. The Clippers never would have jumped out to a 17 point fourth quarter lead and Chris Paul never would have iced it (in that fashion). In the Pacers first big game against a top tier Western Conference foe since the All Star break, they were not able to present the best possible lineup. While the loss was not a good thing, per se, we were able to see the gift we have in the middle in Roy Hibbert. Now, if only he can keep his hands to himself, we can see him dominate the middle when the Pacers travel to LA.