By Sekou Smith, NBA.com
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Look who’s back in the crosshairs.
Guess who’s back in the mix.
That’s right, it’s Big Roy Hibbert.
The Indiana Pacers’ center of attention, in every way imaginable, is front and center today in Game 1 of the long-awaited Eastern Conference finals rematch against the Miami Heat.
I don’t care about the analytics, the history or anything else.
I need to see Hibbert dominate in this series. The Pacers have to demand it if they’re going to make the home-court advantage they worked for all season mean anything.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will do what they do. Chris Bosh, too. Paul George, David West and Lance Stephenson will have their say. But these eyes are locked in on Hibbert. I need to know early if he’s going to be the game changer he’s supposed to be in this series.
(And while I hated to see Mark Jackson ousted the way he was at Golden State, I’m not complaining about having him back on the ABC broadcasting team for this series with Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen.)
Go Hibbert Pacers or go home …
24 — There’s no denying Hibbert’s presence on the floor against the small-ball Heat. He’s established post position twice on Bosh and been a factor on that end early on. No matter how poorly he’s played in recent weeks, this was the series he was made for.
23 — The Pacers are in all-or-nothing mode early.
The Heat came in focused and determined not to look beyond these first 48 (or more) minutes.
22 — From the Miami Heat Matchup Nightmare Department …
21 — Best first quarter for the Pacers in these playoffs. Plenty of Hibbert. George aggressive and attacking on both ends. George Hill in rhythm.
20 — Pacers shooting the cover off the ball (6-for-7 from deep right now). But what goes up, always comes down …
19 — You wonder what happens in the Eastern Conference finals when the best player from each team is on the bench for an extended stretch … then Dwyane Wade and Lance Stephenson break out and play one-on-one!
18 — Pacers putting on an absolute showcase of shooting, inside and out!
17 — Gary Payton had a point. This is not the NBA some of us grew up on.
16 — Lance playing “bully ball” with LeBron on him. You know he’ll be talking about that one later, win or lose. #BornReady
15 — Pacers in control through the first two quarters. Executing on offense. Grinding on defense. Playing like the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference (finally) …
14 — #motivation #stylesmakefights
13 — Woulda, coulda, shoulda!
12 — One of the things I love about Erik Spoelstra is his flexible nature. He’s never been afraid to try something (or someone) different when a change is clearly needed.
And with the way the Heat are defending, he needs to try something or someone new.
11 — I didn’t realize PGeorge’s defensive prowess was in question …
10 — We who? The best of the best will make The Finals. #noexcuses
9 — There is a first time for everything, as the Pacers have shown us repeatedly throughout this postseason.
8 — First it was Andrew Bynum starring in the role of the Brady Bunch tiki idol. Now it’s Evan Turner …
7 — It doesn’t take the bandwagon long to empty …
6 — Hockey goon move earns Chalmers a well-deserved Flagrant 1 for his shove of C.J. Watson, a frustration foul that warranted the extra penalty but not an ejection. Huge play with 9:22 to play. Pacers get three free throws and the possession and now lead 89-74 with 9:22 to play … until the Heat cut the lead back to 11 less than a minute later. #CodeRedPacers
5 — Cover your eyes Timberwolves fans, Kevin Love might break your hearts this summer …
4 — It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, Mr. Bosh!
3 — Pacers played the best game of possum I’ve seen in years. On the ropes after Game 1 in both of their opening round series of the playoffs. The Heat show up and they revert back to the 33-8 juggernaut we saw at the regular season’s midway point. Would the real Pacers please #StandUp!
2 — PGeorge doing the job defensively on LeBron. Best I’ve seen anyone guard him since … PGeorge in the EC finals last season. LeBron’s first points in the 4th come with 4:05 to play. Crazy!
But every game has its scapegoat. And his name is Chris Bosh.
1 — Heat facing an interesting dilemma now. The Big 3 history of resilience versus the reality that this Indiana team is built to beat them and, after one game, looked like they will do exactly that with home court on their side. Big Roy Hibbert played like BRH! (19 points, nine rebounds, three assists and one block and a factor all day long.) Sure, all they did was hold on to home court, for once. But first impressions, even if it is the third time around during this postseason, matter … (Pacers starters outscore Heat counterparts 94-70, btw).