ORLANDO – Roy Hibbert threw down a vicious dunk near the end of the third quarter, which was not as thunderous as what came next.
He stared down Glen Davis, his first-round series tormentor up to this point, and flexed. Yes, the player who was supposed to enjoy a somewhat dominant series was finally feeling and looking very strong indeed.
Hibbert and the Pacers are now firmly in control, and if not for two missed Danny Granger free throws in Game 1, would be going for a sweep come Saturday. They issued a 97-74 stomping of the Magic at Amway Center, the kind of one-sided result you’d expect from a No. 3 seed playing a team without its franchise center.
“I was just more determined, more aggressive,” said Hibbert. “I came out angry, wanting to do something big.”
There was no Dwight Howard, but there was a Howard-like performance from Hibbert, who delivered on both ends this time. In the first two games he was one-dimensional, blocking 11 shots and averaging 13 rebounds but also shooting five-for-16 against Davis, who’s six inches shorter. Hibbert was meek in the paint and shaky with his shot. And then the Pacers simply stopped looking for him. The Pacers have preached patience with Hibbert and were unwilling to force the ball into his hands, even with Howard out of the series following back surgery. After all, despite making the All-Star team two months ago, he remains a work in progress on offense.
It finally came together in Game 3. In his return to the arena where he made his All-Star debut, Hibbert mixed in a few jump hooks with put-backs, and shot eight for 10. He finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds in only 28 minutes and was the reason the Pacers pulled away with a big third quarter.
“When Roy is into the game like that,” said David West, “he makes us all better.”
Davis once again was the most productive player in a Magic uniform, at one point accounting for half his team’s points in the first half. He finished with 22 points but Orlando was a step-slow on the glass all night. The Pacers used a 48-33 rebound advantage to trigger the rout.
A series best known for missing a dominant big man saw a player do a very good impression of one. If Roy Hibbert is bringing efforts like this, Indiana is prepared to move on.