While considered underdogs in the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s hard to call the Indiana Pacers the “little team that could.” That is largely, pun intended, because of center Roy Hibbert.
Indiana has found its 7’ 2”, 280 pound secret weapon that the Miami Heat are going to struggle with. Chris Bosh, the Heat center, is listed at 6’ 11”, 235 pounds and that is being generous. Even at that height and weight for Bosh, Hibbert has 3 inches and 45 pounds over his opposing position.
Hibbert has always had the size. Indiana drafted him with the 17th overall pick back in 2008 because of the physical dominance he brings. But since coming to the NBA, Hibbert has evolved into a real basketball player. He was selected to his first all-star team in 2012 and has continued to grow.
During the regular season, Hibbert averaged 28.7 minutes, 11.9 points, and 8.3 rebounds. Through 14 playoff games, Hibbert has raised all those averages to 35.6 minutes, 15.4 points, and 9.6 rebounds. Those are the kind of numbers the 7’2” center should be putting up. That’s the kind of dominant performance you can expect from Hibbert, especially against an undersized Heat frontcourt.
Hibbert scored 29 points, a playoff career high, Friday night while grabbing 10 rebounds as he led his team to a 97-93 victory over the defending champions. With his physical size and newly developed offensive skills, his opponents were forced to foul Hibbert and send him to the foul line where he made 9 of his 10 free throw attempts. His pick-and-rolls with Lance Stephenson and George Hill were plays that Lebron James and the Heat simply didn’t have an answer to.
As the series moves to Indiana now, the Pacers have their strategy down. If Hibbert plays with the dominance and intensity that he has shown throughout these playoffs, you may very well see a new NBA Champion by June.