It’s all about Roy Hibbert remaining as good as he’s been throughout the series for the Indiana Pacers. All the mismatch advantages of David West, the talent of Paul George, the surprising spurts of brilliance from George Hill or the aggression of Lance Stephenson don’t matter if their center isn’t as dominating as he’s been so far.
The numbers, his 22.8 points, 12 rebounds (6.5 of them offensive) and 1 block per game don’t even tell the whole story. The Miami Heat have to change so much to get around Hibbert, taking away from their driving to the basket an inside game because Hibbert simply won’t let anyone through. In certain moments, when their ball movement was at its best, they managed to create open shots that eventually forced Hibbert to step out of the paint and clear the way for James and others.
Besides that, he’s been phenomenal, playing 39.3 minutes a night, and the Pacers would have used him more if they could. His offensive ability drops as the game drags on, but his physical presence is enough to create so much havoc offensively, as the Pacers are grabbing 10 more rebounds per game than the Heat, including 40% of their own field goal misses thanks to either Hibbert picking up the loose balls or the Heat focusing so much on him it helps West (8.5 rebounds per game) or Paul George (8 rebounds in game 4) pick up the slack.
Hibbert is taking 15.3 shots per game, and sometimes it feels as if the Pacers aren’t even using him enough. He almost automatically demands a double team, as there doesn’t seem to be a single player on the Heat’s roster, including Chris Andersen or Chris Bosh, who can deny him his favorite position or stop him from taking a shot once he’s there. Hibbert isn’t the best passer among the big men in the league, but he isn’t blind to good opportunities, and once again, even if he does miss, it forces a good rebounder from the Heat to an area he finds it hard to help.
Unlike most big men, Hibbert isn’t prone to any hack-a-center tactics, because he hits 80% of his shots in this series, going to the line 7.8 times a game. And the Pacers can’t afford for Hibbert to start slowing down or show any signs of fatigue. Not when everything is up to him, so far also doing a very good job at avoiding foul trouble. Picking up only one in the previous game suggests how the Heat simply stayed away from him, probably a bit too much.
As for the helping crew: Paul George is hit his slump moment. Ever the inconsistent scorer, the struggles with LeBron James have taken a lot out of him when it comes to his focus, and George has scored only 12.5 points per game over the last couple of games. The Pacers weren’t too far from losing in game 4, and George shooting 35% from the field in the last couple of nights isn’t something the Pacers can afford to carry on having.
Isolation plays have been their bane, and for some reason they continue falling into that hole during the second half or even when they build up a certain surprising big lead. George Hill tends to do it too much, and in general, 10% of their offense has been about these headstrong attempts, scoring only 0.66 points per possession on these plays. Unless Lance Stephenson is going to have another slightly lucky night (9-of-15 from the field) by simply lowering his head and shoulder (borderline offensive fouls) and going to the basket, a return to George Hill based pick & rolls along with their post game to Hibbert is what they should stick to.
The referees probably helped out just a bit in the game 4, which certainly won’t be the case in Miami. The Pacers don’t have a bench to help them, and continue to rely on their starting five scoring in double digits every game. They can afford for some of them to have so-so offensive nights, but not Roy Hibbert. If his production drops, the Pacers stop putting up a fair fight. The question is can he last three more (if necessary) 40 minutes games, or even more.