Pacers got their ‘different Roy Hibbert’ in Game 2, and so did Wizards

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: Hibbert steps up with 28 points to lead Pacers to Game 2 win

 

INDIANAPOLIS – They came for an intervention and stayed for a basketball game, a performance from the Indiana Pacers that was as much about chasing the demons away from Roy Hibbert as it was about beating the Washington Wizards in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Without the former, there was going to be a slim chance at the latter, considering how balled up Hibbert and his Pacers teammates and the fans and the city’s media had gotten over the Indiana big man’s eerie drop in confidence and effectiveness. What the 18,165 in the stands at Bankers Life Fieldhouse got, in a massive session of group therapy, were 28 points and nine rebounds from Hibbert and an 86-82 victory that kept the flames of June at least flickering.

David [West, Pacers teammate] was talking to me about being the person who rescues yourself when you’re in the middle of the ocean,” a subdued Hibbert said afterward. “There’s nobody that can throw a life raft or a rope out to help you, so I got to do it myself.”

That wasn’t quite it. Hibbert did have to look inward to pull off his bad-Hollywood script of a game. But no way, no how did he do it by himself. The house was his. His teammates were eager to serve him, not with any specific play-calling from coach Frank Vogel but by seeing him and rewarding him with the ball when he got and held some position against Wizards’ big men Nene and Marcin Gortat.

“When they try to get the ball into me sometimes, it takes a lot of time off the shot clock,” Hibbert said. “Coach and myself talked at great length after the last game – I was in his office for like an hour, we chit-chatted – and I told him you don’t need to call plays for me. I’ll just defend on one end and rebound, block shots, and then I’ll try to be the first big down the court before the defense settles to make a move.”

Hibbert’s college coach at Georgetown, John Thompson III, was in the building to lend support and so was his agent, David Falk, who locked Hibbert up in a pep talk near one baseline moments before tipoff.

And then, on the game’s first possession, the redemption began.

“The ball got tipped around, Lance [Stephenson] threw it to him, he just threw a prayer up and it goes in,” Washington’s Drew Gooden said. “I looked at Andre [Miller] and said, ‘That’s gonna get him going right there.’ “

Hibbert hit two more shots and scored seven points in the first quarter. By halftime, he had 17.

“You’d see a loose ball get to him with one second on the shot clock,” Washington point guard John Wall groused, “and he’d make a jump shot.”

It was that sort of evening, overdue and impossible to overdo.

“I felt that I put a lot of pressure on myself to get going,” Hibbert said. “I think I was making a lot of excuses the second half of the season and then into the playoffs. So I decided to take it into my own hands and change things around.”

An All-Star through the season’s first half, the 7-foot-2 Hibbert sputtered and swooned after that as if someone had slipped Kryptonite into his compression shorts. In seven first-round games against Atlanta and the opener of this series Monday, he no-showed in four. Three times, he went scoreless, getting up a total of five shots. Five times he managed three or fewer rebounds. We could go on, but the ugliest numbers got plenty of play, his points and rebounds vying with Flounder‘s GPA: Zero-point-zero.

The sniping locally and nationally at Hibbert’s game, his manhood, his psyche reached epic, withering proportions. Social media was crammed with barbs, Photoshop wit and memes of meanness.

“People have been piling on Roy,” West said. “He’s very aware. So that’s been a part of this thing. We’ve told him to try to unplug himself from that. And he’s tried, he’s worked on it. But you can’t help but hear the criticism.

“Our message to him has been encouragement. When he plays well, we’re a better team. There’s no other way to put it.”

Actually, West and reserve Rasual Butler reportedly aired out Hibbert behind closed doors Monday after his hollow performance in Game 1. Their anger apparently was tinged with enough desperation and empathy to nudge Hibbert toward his Game 2. Outgoing in good or average times, Hibbert “probably said five words” around his teammates at practice Tuesday. When they gathered for shootaround Wednesday morning, he was quiet again.

“I don’t know about ‘tough love,’ ” Butler said, staying coy after the game. “It’s brotherly love.”

Hibbert got a dose of that, too, from Paul George, his All-Star teammate. Some of the speculation about the Pacers’ splintering chemistry has focused on those two, but a day on the lake met that head-on.

“I fiercely believe the biggest person who helped me out here was Paul,” Hibbert said. “Yesterday after practice, he invited me out on his boat. We fished for about two hours and just relaxed. And didn’t talk about basketball. Just talked about life and trying to catch some bass.

“He reached out and got my mind off things, and this is hopefully something I can build on. He’s a great teammate. So I really do appreciate him reaching out. Because he didn’t have to.”

Frankly, they all had to. Even if the Pacers could manage to beat the Wizards a time or two with Hibbert in full funk, Washington isn’t Atlanta. There would be no advancing if Indiana suddenly went doughnut, losing his defensive presence and at least perceived threat he poses at the other end.

As it was, with Hibbert rolling, Washington had the lead with less than five minutes left. Wall and Bradley Beal went a little haywire around the 3-minute mark, down 82-79, chucking up three unnecessary 3-pointers. Indiana perked up defensively to close out, even though the Wizards – losing on the road for the first time after a 4-0 start to this postseason – head home with confidence.

Hibbert just had more for the 48 minutes they all played Wednesday.

Can he repeat it Friday and Sunday in D.C., back home (he went to Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda, Md.)? The Wizards spoke of resetting their defense to account for him more properly. But no one from either side was promising anything.

“Every game, we’re expecting him to have an impact,” West said, beating the encouragement drum. “[Expecting] him to play his game and play well, regardless of what he’s done previously.

“I just thought his body language was a little different. When it was all said and done, I thought he took probably as much as he could take, in terms of people’s criticism. And I just thought he made it up in his mind that he was going to respond and have a big game.”


VIDEO: Roy Hibbert talks about his big game, leading Pacers to win

16 Comments

  1. Big Al says:

    It will be awful to see Washington advance to the ECF; they’re simply not a team that should get that far. Pacers need to win this, no more whining and all that immature, selfish BS.

  2. Matt says:

    Washington is a terrible home team. If you count the playoffs, they have a better road record than home record. So are games 3 and 4 really so much of a lock for WAS?

  3. Mike says:

    I’m proud of Hibbert and the authenticity he showed after the game. He wasn’t flashy, but sometimes life isn’t. Good to see the big guy smiling again. Pacers D will get us through this series. I’ll say pacers in 6. We get one in game 3 or 4, and 5 and 6. We’ve got a #1 defense that gets to play the same team 4 times. We’ll make our adjustments and their score will keep dwindling, droughts will get worse. I just hope we can score enough points in those droughts.

    I hope we can win it all this year. Miami is full of priss. Clippers and Spurs are dangerous though. :)

    • #dwade#flash says:

      authenticity? have you seen your team when the were winning? they were C.CKY, thats what happens when their mouths writting checks that thier as…..s cant cash.. I hope they get humbled for whatever they have gone through… You simply dont know your team,

  4. cp10 says:

    Washington was in the game the whole time, couldn’t quite tie it in the end, w/ clutch 3 by Beal

  5. vern says:

    One good game doesn’t mean his slump is over. Lets see how he does next game in Washington.

  6. lakers says:

    going 7 games…..so is OKC CLIPPERS..SPURS IN 6 MIAMI IN 6

  7. Game Time says:

    Big game by Hibbert and still a close game at home for Indy. WAS takes the next two games for sure.

  8. G2 says:

    for now WAS is the better team, but when the Pacers get back to firing on all cylinders WAS has no chance.

    • Roy says:

      If hibbert consistently plays like this and pg and west contribute nore than they did last night this series is over pacers in 5

  9. TROYBOY says:

    It showed how good this team is. Kept on going to Hibbert regarless of what’s been going on. They could’ve panic to change the way they played. But they didn’t.

    Stay the course. It’s a long series and a long playoff run. All I’m waiting for is GAME 7 @ HOME against the Heat.

  10. Antman says:

    Great showing by Hibbert! But is there really any doubt that – so far – WAS is a better team?

  11. theholyspectator says:

    now lets see him be consistent, from that performance i thought it was going to be a blowout…but wizards kept it close..

  12. standard says:

    gone fishin’
    real nice

  13. v says:

    Game 3 at Verizon; Wizards refocused and ready! Go Wizards!

  14. Chulercio says:

    THIS TIME, he has earned fans good hand and años ovation for his work. But don’t shame on pride, Roy, this is no One Night stuff.