May 13, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) reacts to a foul call in a game against the Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Washington defeats Indiana 102-79. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Hustle of Hibbert

The struggles of Roy Hibbert are well documented. Everyone knows that after a dominant first half of the season and an All-Star appearance, his numbers and play have tailed off to the point that he was a wreck in the playoffs.

Then, in Game 7 against the Hawks, Frank Vogel kept him in the starting lineup, and Roy delivered.

Early on, Hibbert grabbed an offensive board and scored. It was his team’s first two points. He would make his next three shots as well, tallying 8 of Indiana’s first 17 points. The tone was set, Hibbert remained active on the interior throughout the game, and the Pacers won without much struggle.

Crisis averted. On to the second round. The Roy Hibbert turnaround was looking good.

He has kept up the good work.

In Game 2 against the Wizards he was the Pacers’ MVP, dropping 28 points while hitting 10-for-13 shots from the field and 8-for-8 at the line. Maybe more encouragingly, Hibbert grabbed 9 rebounds as his team evened up the series at 1-1.

His Game 4 wasn’t as statistically overwhelming, but he played marvelous defense in the paint, virtually shutting off the basket for Wizards of all sizes. He also ended up with 17 points and, again, 9 rebounds.

Indiana was 3-1 in the series and benefitting in big ways from Hibbert’s excellent play. The additional points certainly had to be appreciated by a coaching staff so used to seeing low scoring totals, but Roy being a factor in the paint — on defense and on the glass — was his biggest contribution.

All of that largely disappeared last night, however.

Roy was not a big factor, despite some good play early in the game. Because neither he nor any other Pacers could rebound the ball. They threw away so many good defensive possessions by not finishing the play with a board.

By the end of Game 5, the Wizards had out-rebounded the Pacers 62-23. I don’t spend a lot of time looking at box-score rebounding margins, but it’s hard to believe a team can be out-rebounded by 39 in a 48 minute game.

One reason was Roy Hibbert being a statue.

In a game in which Washington missed 41 field goals, and Indiana thus had 41 defensive rebound opportunities, Hibbert grabbed 0 in 25 minutes on the court. Zero.

David West led the team with 5. Evan Turner had 4. Nobody else who played before garbage time finished with more than 2. But Roy had 0. And so did Lance Stephenson.

Washington’s players beat the Pacers to so many of these 41 misses. It was sad to watch really. Just no energy on one side, and so much intensity and ball-hawking by the Wizards.

The tragic irony (maybe?) about the whole ordeal came when Roy Hibbert’s got his only 2 rebounds of the game (both offensive) on arguably the best possession of the game for the Pacers.

Look at this hustle-rific beauty.

The big man flails into the stands tracking down David West’s miss and throws it back on the court. Then, after a tap back rebound later, he ends up throwing the pretty interior assist to a cutting Lance Stephenson for a layup.

So nice.

But it’s strange to think this came in the same game when Roy and everyone else were so passive on the defensive glass.

Give the Wizards a lot of credit. Marcin Gortat was a steamroller possessed out there, scoring 31 points (on 13-of-15 shooting) and grabbing 16 boards. Drew Gooden (9 rebounds), Trevor Ariza (10), and Bradley Beal (8) each also were impressive and intense.

They were facing elimination and played like it. Indiana simply couldn’t match that energy.

It sounds dumb saying it like that, and all, I know. But look at West talk after the game. (Ignore the headline.) It’s the only answer he has, too, because sometimes it’s just the truth. The only message West is gave after the game is essentially: We just got our asses kicked and, to be honest, I don’t know why we were so weak out there.

They got out-worked and out-passioned.

If it’s a one-game blip, that’s fine. No worries if the Pacers go back to having the tenacity they’ve shown — and especially Hibbert’s tenacity in Games 2 and 4, and on the play above. They will be in good shape if we see more urgency, energy, and hustle from Hibbert and everyone else.

If not, heading to Washington, it will be incredibly tough to beat a still-desperate Wizards team that has found some ways to score on Indiana. And nobody on the Pacers wants to play another Game 7. Not against the new Norse god Marcin Thortat.


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Tags: David West Indiana Pacers Roy Hibbert

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