INDIANAPOLIS — Roy Hibbert has a six-inch height advantage and surely an XXL wingspan advantage over Glen “Big Baby” Davis, but the one figure that separates the two in this series is 8-3.
Davis had eight buckets and Hibbert three in Game 1.
The one obvious advantage the Pacers tried to exploit against Orlando did not go as planned in this Dwight Howard-less first round. Hibbert was a non-factor offensively, and while that didn’t cause the Pacers to lose — they crumbled in the clutch — it did help make the game closer than it should’ve been.
And while Hibbert was named to the All-Star Game for the first time, what Game 1 proved is his offensive skills remain prehistoric, no matter the height advantage. His numbers since the All-Star break are down across the board as well. For the season, Hibbert averaged only 12.8 ppg and was Indiana’s third or fourth option. And despite his size, he shooting less than 50 percent for the season. That spilled over against the Magic, where Hibbert shot three-for-11 and looked like he had two left feet, his footwork was so plodding.
“I’ve got to do better,” he said. “And I will do better.”
When they stand next to each other, the starting centers in this series resemble the number 10. Hibbert is vertical, Big Baby is shaped like a Cherrio. But only one of them used their size to his advantage. While Hibbert did block nine shots, including four of Davis’, and came one shy of tying the NBA record (which indeed was tied a day later by Andrew Bynum), that was the extent of his dominance. Not only did Davis match Hibbert rebound-for-rebound, he also outscored him, 16 to 8. And despite the blocks, Davis kept charging at Hibbert, a strategy he vows won’t change.
“I’m a boulder,” he said. “I run through people. That’s what I have done, and that’s what I will do.”
Pacers coach Frank Vogel vowed he won’t force-feed Hibbert in the post. That’s probably wise, because Hibbert by nature isn’t that type of post-up player, and it would slow the Pacer offense. But Vogel said Hibbert needs to do a better job of freeing himself and Indy’s point guards must do a better job of finding him.
“Look, Glen is a terrific defensive presence,” Vogel said. “He’s wide. He’s tough to move. But we can’t say, ‘Well, Howard’s out and we have this mismatch.’ We just have to do a better job of getting Roy involved in the flow.
“We’ll be all right. The matchups will all play out the way we want them.”
Well, that would mean Hibbert will mix in a few scoring games of 15 to 20 points and, even more important, get Davis in foul trouble. That might be a bit out of character for Hibbert, whose offensive instincts are raw. Still, if he seizes the opportunity and cashes in, this series could go as originally expected.
At practice Sunday, Hibbert wrote “stay” on his left sneaker and “low” on his right. That’s his mindset against a player who’s built lower to the ground. It might be wiser if Hibbert wrote “stay up.” Why should he play down to Big Baby’s size and into a smaller player’s hands?