A day after going scoreless for the third time in eight playoff games, Hibbert was invited for a post-practice outing on teammate Paul George’s boat.
For two hours they talked about a lot of things other than basketball.
“He reached out and he got my mind off things,” Hibbert said. “He’s a great teammate. I really appreciate him reaching out because he didn’t have to.”
Hibbert, the All-Star big man-turned social media punchline, pulled himself out of an untimely funk to score 28 points and grab nine rebounds Wednesday night, leading the Indiana Pacers to an 86-82 win over the Washington Wizards in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Pacers evened the series behind their rejuvenated 7-foot-2 center heading into Friday’s Game 3 in Washington.
Hibbert battled foul trouble and went without a point or a rebound in almost 18 minutes in Game 1 on Monday, a 102-96 Washington win.
Game 1 was the second time Hibbert put up donuts in points and rebounds this postseason.
“I’m sure he didn’t like the way he played the other night,” said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. “I’m sure he didn’t like the criticism.”
Vogel said he didn’t call any more plays for Hibbert than he had in the other games, yet Hibbert was involved from the start, scoring the game’s first five points and finishing with 17 in the first half.
He checked out in the final minute of the second quarter to cheers.
“That’s the remarkable thing,” said Vogel. “You play with a certain amount of force and the ball finds you.”
George Hill scored 14 points and Lance Stephenson had 12 for the top-seeded Pacers, most of them coming during a big run in the third quarter that pulled them out of a hole.
Marcin Gortat had 21 points to lead the Wizards, Bradley Beal added 17 and Nene scored 14 despite rolling his left ankle in the first quarter.
Stephenson hit a shot with one foot inside the 3-pont line that gave Indiana an 84-79 lead with 21.4 seconds left. Beal knocked down a tough 3 over Hill at the other end to make it a two-point game, but David West’s free throws sealed the win for the Pacers.
Hibbert’s five-point flurry at the beginning of the game sparked a 15-7 Pacers run he capped with a long jump-hook inside the free-throw line.
The hot start came hours after NBA.com, citing an unnamed source, reported Hibbert was “rankled” by the February signing of oft-injured center Andrew Bynum.
The Pacers announced Wednesday that Bynum, who continues to battle knee issues and hasn’t played since March 15, would not appear in a game this postseason. Pacers president Larry Bird indicated Bynum’s brief tenure with the team was over, saying in a statement, “We wish him the best in the future.”
Hibbert ended 10-of-13 from the floor and 8-for-8 from the foul line with two blocked shots.
“He had a heck of a game,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. “One we all knew he’s capable of having.”
Washington erased Indiana’s early eight-point lead to tie the score at 23-23 going into the second quarter.
Hibbert was 7-for-7 from the foul line and 5-of-7 from the field in the first half, but the rest of the Pacers were 12-for-30 and the Wizards led 45-43 at the break.
Hill scored the first five points and Stephenson the last eight during a 15-3 Pacers run in the third quarter that turned a five-point deficit into a seven- point lead. Stephenson had 10 points in the quarter and Indiana took a 68-64 lead into the fourth.
Notes: George scored 11 points … The Wizards out-shot the Pacers (45 percent to 44.4 percent) and out-rebounded them 43-38 … Indiana had eight turnovers, leading to just one Wizards point.
|Officials: James Capers, Marc Davis, Zach Zarba||Attendance: 18165
Time Of Game: 2:27
|A.Harrington||DNP – Coach’s Decision|
|K.Seraphin||DNP – Coach’s Decision|
|O.Porter||DNP – Coach’s Decision|
|PERCENTAGES||FG: 45%||3PT: 23.8%||FT: 41.7%||TEAM REB: 7||TOTAL TO: 10|
|R.Butler||DNP – Coach’s Decision|
|D.Sloan||DNP – Coach’s Decision|
|L.Allen||DNP – Coach’s Decision|
|PERCENTAGES||FG: 44.4%||3PT: 33.3%||FT: 85.7%||TEAM REB: 6||TOTAL TO: 8|