Being the NBA’s most ridiculed player this postseason has not been easy on Indiana Pacers Center, Roy Hibbert. But if the Pacers hope to make it past the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, Hibbert will be have to be the biggest X-factor and the reason for their success. That is exactly what Hibbert proved in Game One.
The Pacers as a team held the Miami Heat to only four offensive rebounds. The 7’2″ center played a big part in establishing those impressive numbers. Indiana clearly has a size advantage and if Hibbert plays the way Pacers fans expect from the All-Star, this series should go by way of the number one team in the East. In Game One, Hibbert was one of six Pacers that scored in double digits and finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.
However, an even more impressive number from Roy Hibbert in Sunday’s game: 13. Hibbert attempted 13 free throws in Game One. This is a telling statistic for several reasons: if Hibbert plays with the confidence he displayed throughout the first half of the season, the Heat should and will have no answer in stopping the big man. The number 13 also means that Hibbert was in fact confident and displayed an aggressiveness to attack the hoop not seen in the first round against the Atlanta Hawks.
Against the Hawks, Hibbert attempted only eight total free throws throughout the entire seven game series, was seen several times settling for jump shots instead of attacking the basket and was held scoreless in Games Five and Six. In the second round against the Washington Wizards, Hibbert started off the series on the wrong foot again, being held scoreless in Game One. He responded emphatically in Game Two of that series by scoring 28 points, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking two shots.
The up and down nature of Roy Hibbert this postseason is quite the anomaly, but his presence and importance on the court is not lost on Indiana fans because as Hibbert goes, so do the Pacers. In the first round, with Hibbert being essentially nonexistent, the Pacers had to come back and win Games Six and Seven in order to avoid a potentially historic upset at the hands of the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. In the second round, Hibbert’s effort played more of a direct role versus the Washington Wizards. In the Pacers four wins, Hibbert averaged 18 points and six trips to the free-throw line per game. In the two losses, he averaged zero points and got to the line zero times. To take this connection one step further, in two wins over the Miami Heat in the regular season, Hibbert averaged 22.5 points per game. In two losses to the Heat, Hibbert averaged a mere five points per game.
Hibbert’s presence is not just seen on the offensive side of the game for the Pacers. In Game One against the Miami Heat, when Hibbert was on the court, Miami’s shot percentage fell from 69.2 percent to 47.7 percent. The average distance of the shot attempted went from 14.2 feet away when Hibbert stepped foot on the court to 7.6 feet away when he was off. Finally, with Hibbert on the court, the Pacers outscored the Miami Heat by 19 points. With Hibbert off the court, Miami outscored the Pacers by eight points.
For now, spectators should hold off on talks of Hibbert destroying his legacy along with the Pacers playoff chances, because he is not going anywhere. The big man’s confidence and success has improved from round to round and Indiana fans can only hope to see that success continue as he becomes the biggest X-factor on the court for these two teams.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles