INDIANAPOLIS — Roy Hibbert is feasting on the Heat, which is easy to do when there’s a lot shrimp on the buffet.
We’ll give Hibbert his due in a minute, but also understand what he’s up against. Mainly, not much. The Heat started Dexter Pittman in Game 3, then threw Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf into the mix. One guy is a third-stringer who could be mistaken for Eddy Curry, both in terms of weight (pounds) and lightweight (ability). The second guy is a freakish athlete and bundle of energy who has absolutely no idea how to play. And the last guy can look Hibbert right in the Adam’s apple.
This is what Miami is offering, these sacrificial lambs, led to slaughter.
Which is exactly what Hibbert just did to them.
Hibbert scored 19 points with 18 rebounds and five blocks. His defense was solid, his offense a surprise, and he was the main reason the Pacers are up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series with Miami. With Chris Bosh out perhaps for the series with an abdominal strain, Hibbert is ripping through Miami’s spare big bodies and there’s little (or nothing?) the Heat can do about it, unless they throw Alonzo Mourning a uniform.
But here’s where we give Hibbert some respect. He obviously is much improved. He wouldn’t have had this type of game last year in the playoffs. He was too unsteady, too unsure of himself, and the Pacers mainly ignored him offensively. And as for defense, Hibbert was too inconsistent. He was a rock one game, a hack the next.
On Thursday, he was all man, mainly because he grew up last summer.
“I worked out with Tim Duncan,” he said. “It was more than just basketball stuff. We sat down and talked about how he goes about his business. His kind of demeanor is he doesn’t get too high or too low. I model my game after him.
“Now, he texts me after every game, and I’m very appreciative.”
Well, maybe after Game 3, it was Hibbert who texted Duncan.
Without Bosh, Hibbert doesn’t have to take chances or use too much energy defensively. There’s no offensive-minded Heat big man to lure Hibbert into foul trouble, so he can just sit back and concentrate more on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade when they drive the line. He can cheat off his man and offer tremendous help when his Indiana teammates need it.
“I go into the game thinking to clog up the lane and alter shots,” Hibbert said. “Without (Bosh) I can wander more, clog up things more and block more shots.”
This is a major problem for Miami. Until one of the big men forces Hibbert to pay more respect (which is unlikely to happen), he can keep playing off his man and making life miserable to whomever drives to the rim.
“You can try to block him out,” James said, “but he’s cleaning glass. He had a great night, defensively and impacting the game.”
The Pacers are lobbing the ball to Hibbert in the paint and giving him the green light to throw baby hooks all night if he wishes. Miami has no defense for that because their big men don’t have enough reach to tamper with his shot. In the first round, Glen Davis of the Magic did have his way with Hibbert, but Davis came with a solid, low-to-the-ground base (he’s Big Baby, after all) and also shot well enough from the outside to force Hibbert from the paint. Miami has no one like that.
And so Hibbert is ruling the nest and this series right now. He’s munching on Miami and about to go for seconds.