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Indiana Pacers' Roy Hibbert emerges as a force on offense

NBA PLAYOFFS

The 7-foot-2 center, known for defense, has caused problems for the Miami Heat in the NBA Eastern Conference finals, tied 2-2. Game 5 is on Thursday.

May 29, 2013|By Shandel Richardson, South Florida Sun Sentinel

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MIAMI — It was only five days ago that Miami Heat center Chris Bosh said he was done discussing anything related to the player he matched up against in the Eastern Conference finals.

No more would Bosh answer any more questions about Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert.

But with the series tied 2-2 entering Thursday's Game 5, Bosh has been left with no choice. All the talk centers on how Hibbert has dominated the Heat, especially on offense. He is averaging 22.7 points and 12 rebounds and hardly resembling the player known more for defense.

"He's getting offensive rebounds," Bosh said. "We have to eliminate that. Once he gets it down there, he's pretty much just putting it back. He's using his size and he's doing it well. We're going to have to do a better job of post-line defense and limiting his easy looks."

The 7-foot-2 Hibbert is showing signs that he is headed toward joining the list of elite centers from Georgetown. The surprise is that he's playing less like the shot-blocking Dikembe Mutombo.

For at least the last four games, he is favoring Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning, who both could score and affect a game defensively.

"You've got a 7-foot-2 [player] being able to shoot that jump hook with both hands," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. "That's a tough move to stop at that size. Most Georgetown centers have that move. You just try to push him out, make him shoot it from a little further distance."

It is shocking that the Heat is having to account for Hibbert's offense. He averaged only 11.9 points in the regular season and was a nonfactor on the offensive end when the teams met in the conference semifinals last year.

Hibbert, in his fifth season, has gradually improved his offensive game. He is shooting 54% from the field in the series (33 for 61) and had a career-high 29 points in the Pacers' victory in Game 2. On Tuesday, he finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds on 10-for-16 shooting.

He and the Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki are the only players to have recorded three straight postseason games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Heat during the Big Three (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh) era. Nowitzki completed the feat in the 2011 NBA Finals, the only playoff series the James-led Heat has lost.

"He's a worker," Pacers forward David West said of Hibbert. "That's what happens when you work. He takes pride in being a good big man, a back-to-the-basket big man. There's not many of them left. So he takes pride in that. He's just showed improvement because of his work."

This is only West's second season with the Pacers, meaning he missed Hibbert's early growing pains.

West said he has noticed a difference in Hibbert's offensive ability since last season. His improvement as a scorer has the Pacers two victories from facing the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.

"He's a guy who wants the ball," West said. "Every opportunity he can get the ball, he wants it because he knows he can get us a good shot…. Since I've been here, he's always been a guy who's wanted the ball because he's got the confidence to take the weight on his shoulders.'

With much of the pre-series spotlight being placed on Pacers forward Paul George, the Heat refuses to say Hibbert has caught them off guard. The goal the remainder of the series is to simply eliminate his easy scoring opportunities.

"It's not surprising," Heat guard Wade said. "It would be surprising if he was coming down hitting [three-pointers]. The guy is making layups. He's the biggest guy on the court. That's the kind of impact he should have. We've got to do a better job of trying to make it just tough on him to make those shots."

srichardson@tribune.com

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