Thursday, May 8, 2014
5/08/2014 10:52:00 AM | Posted by Matt Davis | Edit Post
The Roy Hibbert debacle has been one of the most discussed stories of the 2014 NBA playoffs. His disappearing act has prompted analysts, journalists, and fans alike to ponder if there's ever been such a steep decline in performance in NBA history. It may not be the biggest, but it has got to be close.
His major struggles began post All-Star break - he wasn't playing awful, but he was nowhere near producing as much as he had before. The rumors began to pile up. From issues within the locker room, to being a headcase, to the addition of Andrew Bynum etc. Nevertheless, even after losing 13 of their final 23 games, the consensus was that he (and the Pacers) "should" be back to normal once the playoffs began. That was not the case.
He was a complete no show in the first six games of the Hawks series and was shouldering most of the blame for the team's overall struggles. Hibbert couldn't rebound and he couldn't score. It wasn't until the decisive Game Seven that he came to life, registering a 13 point, seven rebound, and five block effort. Even with that, however, he still only averaged 5.2 ppg and 3.7 rbg in just over 20 mpg for the series. Still, many chalked up Hibbert's struggles against the Hawks due to poor match-ups. Millsap and Antic are bigs who spread the floor, which eliminated Hibbert's skill-set. Even with that argument though, there was still no reason for a guy 7' 2" to not even grab four rebounds in a basketball game.
On to the next series..
The word on Hibbert against the Wizards was that the match-up would be much better for him because of the Wizards' big men. Nene and Gortat have decent jumpers, but they would be spending the majority of their time in the paint - making Hibbert's skill-set more useful. Even with the better match-up, game one was an absolute disaster for the Pacers big man. In about 18 minutes of action, Hibbert recorded 0 points and 0 rebounds - all en route to five fouls and a 102-96 home loss.
The criticism reached an all-time high. Team meetings were called, old friends and mentors chimed in, analysts and experts were dumbfounded, fans were angry, and rivals were smiling - this had turned into a complete charade.
Until last night...
Roy Hibbert looked to be seemingly back. He was scoring, running the floor, making the right cuts, setting screens, making plays, hustling, altering shots, blocking shots, even rebounding. Hell, he was playing basketball!
Once the buzzer sounded, the big man finished with a playoff career high of 28 (10-13) points, nine rebounds, and two blocks in about 33 minutes - all on the way to a 86-82 Pacers win.
Although the final score was close, it was a joyful game for the Pacers team and fans. It was extremely refreshing to see that goofy Roy-Hibbert-smile as he ran back on defense after a bucket. The same smile he wore for most of last year's series against the Miami Heat, in which he truly made a name for himself. He was having fun again. The fans were behind him and his confidence was seemingly back. Things seemed to be back to normal, at least for a night.
Which leads us all to the next stage of this ongoing saga. Will Hibbert show some consistency? Will he continue to be a game changer? Will the Pacers collectively get it in gear and resemble the dominate team they once showed to be?
After such a disastrous stretch, it's tough to gauge.
It'd be foolish to not take Game Two with a grain of salt. Game Three in Washington is Friday night, and the next stage of the Hibbert saga will come right along with it.