The Pacers’ postseason problems may begin with Roy Hibbert, but they do not end there.
As the Pacers prepare for another backs-to-the-wall scenario in Game 2 against Washington tonight in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, coach Frank Vogel had much more on his mind than just the struggles of his All-Star center.
Hibbert was scoreless for the third time in the last four playoff games in the Pacers’ 102-96 Game 1 loss Monday and is averaging just 4.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and .356 shooting in the postseason.
“It’s not just Roy, it’s all of us,” Vogel said. “I’ve got to get him some looks to help get him going some. Everybody has to understand, he wasn’t 0-for-11, he was 0-for-2. He’s the fifth option in our starting-five offense. He needs to get a little more active on the offensive glass and his teammates have to be able to see him when he’s ducking in, which we’re missing at times, and I’ve got to call his number sometimes, which I called it zero times. …
“He is giving us something despite what the box score looks like and I expect him to continue to contribute.”
As Hibbert struggled through the first-round series with Atlanta, Vogel toyed with changing the starting lineup but ultimately did not, although he did change the bench rotation to provide better matchups against the Hawks’ spread offense.
Though Hibbert produced no points or rebounds in Game 1, Vogel is still standing behind his embattled big man.
“I’m coaching every game like it’s Game 7,” he said. “This is not about the next series or the next game. If Roy Hibbert’s on the court it’s because I think he can help us win the next possession, the next stretch of the game, and help us win that game.”
Hibbert’s stats, or lack thereof, helped mask other issues.
>> Paul George shot 4-for-17 in the opener and scored 18 points. In the Pacers’ four postseason losses, he has shot 36 percent from the field and averaged 20 points. In their four wins, he has shot 49 percent and averaged 26.3 points.
>> George also was torched by Washington’s Trevor Ariza, who was 6-for-6 from the 3-point line and scored 22 points.
>> The Pacers were dominated 53-36 on the boards as Washington held a 19-5 advantage in second-chance points. Wizards reserve forward Drew Gooden, who totaled two points and three rebounds in Washington’s first-round series victory over Chicago had 13 boards, seven offensive, in less than 18 minutes – more than any Indiana player.
>> Though John Wall shot just 4-for-14, the combination of the Wizards’ dominance on the glass and his speed in transition enabled the visitors to accelerate the tempo of the game, consistently collapsing Indiana’s defense in transition.
>> And perhaps the most telling problem, as identified by Vogel: “I didn’t think we were ready to play.”
The Pacers shot 5-for-23 in the first quarter in falling behind by 13. The team’s leading scorers, George, Lance Stephenson and David West, shot a combined 3-for-14. Hibbert missed his only shot.
The focus after the game, however, clearly was on Hibbert, whose decline in productivity over the final two months of the season has been the greatest in NBA history for a player that made the All-Star team.
George and West both called out Hibbert, George saying “we really need him now” and West saying “he’s got to be part of the fight.”
“They addressed it, I’m going to listen and I’m going to change it up,” he said.
After practice Monday, George said it’s up to Hibbert to bring a more aggressive approach.
“It’s a mindset,” he said. “He’s got to clear his mind, demand the ball in the paint and get the ball where he wants it. When he gets it where he’s able to be a threat and he’s able to make a move without putting the ball on the ground, that shot is going in most every time. When he gets worked up and has to put the ball on the ground and work his way in a little closer, that’s when it gets a little difficult for him.”
Why isn’t that happening?
“I don’t know,” George said. “Roy’s just got to do a better job.”
He is not alone.