What Roy Hibbert Needs to Bring to the Eastern Conference Semifinals
With the second-round series between the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards set to begin, all attention is on Pacer center Roy Hibbert. Has he fully recovered from his series one blues? Can he produce on offense? Can he contain Wizards center Marcin Gortat? Can he play basketball again?
Before Game 7 against the Hawks on Sunday, Hibbert had posted a total of 24 points, 4 blocks and 19 rebounds during the entire postseason. The 7'2'' two-time All-Star was scoreless in Games 5 and 6, and rebound-less in Game 5 against the eighth-seeded Hawks. Hibbert was present and worthwhile in Game 7, however, scoring 13 and adding 7 rebounds and 5 blocks to the Pacers win. In order for Indiana to rally past the Wiz, they’ll need a lot more of Game 7 Hibbert, and a lot less of the Hibbert that played in Games 1 through 6.
In their first-round upset against Chicago, Washington showed us that they are a well-rounded team, with weapons in the front and back courts. The frontline of Nene and Gortat were no match for Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah and the Bulls. In the four games he played, Nene averaged 17.8 points, 3.3 assists and 6.5 rebounds. And in Game 4 with a suspended Nene, Gortat posted 17 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Hibbert needs to be an inside presence on the defensive end, both to contain Nene and Gortat, but also to limit drives from the Wizards dynamic backcourt. Trevor Ariza successfully drove to the basket 17 times in the three regular season games this year - the most of any Wizard or Pacer in the series.
In Washington’s only win against the Pacers in March this season, Gortat was a leading scorer with 17 points and 12 rebounds. When Hibbert and Gortat were matched up in the game, Hibbert only scored 4 points on 15 touches. He had 8 points and 2 rebounds for the game. In the two Pacer wins, Hibbert scored in double figures. They'll need more of the latter if they expect to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Hibbert is undeniably a key factor for this series. He will need to out-rebound Gortat, who averages 9.5 rebounds a game. He will need to score more than 0 points. And most importantly, he needs to be on the court and not benched for foul trouble, or worse, ineffective play.