Roy Hibbert had his most productive game for the Indiana Pacers since the gem he put up in the team's road win over the Lakers back in late November. It has been a long two months for Hibbert and the Pacers since that night at Staples Center, so the big fella's success last night was encouraging.
Hibbert has had success against Brook Lopez in the past, but last night's effort seemed to go beyond rising up against a familiar foe. He also had Josh McRoberts playing alongside him at power forward to start the game, which appears to be a more comfortable fit for Hibbert than Tyler Hansbrough.
"I think he (Hibbert) does feel more comfortable playing next to Josh because we get a lot of movement," Jim O'Brien said following the game. "Roy's struggles started with Josh in the lineup, but I think he generally is more comfortable because there's ball movement. There's a lot more ball movement when Josh is on the court because that's Josh's forte."
Man, I wish I had a forte.
JOB is right, though about Hibbert struggling well before Tyler Hansbrough was inserted into the starting lineup. Looking back, those struggles may have impacted McRoberts in a negative way as well.
JOB's priorities for McRoberts to start the season were to rebound, take care of the ball and stay active on the floor. With Hibbert struggling, McRoberts couldn't pick up the scoring slack and the more he tried to do on the floor, the further he strayed from the type of game that makes him effective. He's simply better being a low usage, hustle player that keeps the offense flowing and cleans up any scraps.
Tyler Hansbrough is a better fit with Darren Collisonand his ability to score off the pick n' pop put him in the starting lineup. But Hansbrough definitely looks for scoring opportunities more than McRoberts and that does impact the number and quality of touches Hibbert can get in the flow of the offense.
On the first possession of the game last night, McRoberts found a cutting Mike Dunleavy for his first assist of the game. Soon thereafter, Hibbert had the ball on the baseline and turned to shoot with a rhythm and confidence that looked different (and better) than what we've witnessed recently. He missed that shot but it looked good.
Then before you knew it, Hibbert had 10 points and was off to a solid night, scoring 20 points on 7 for 12 shots from the floor. A shooting percentage hovering around 60% should be the norm for Roy, and last night he acknowledged that McRoberts played a role in helping him find his groove.
"Josh made a concerted effort to try to get me going down low in the post," Hibbert said. "It didn't take away from his game either, he was able to do his thing, driving, getting rebounds and getting some dunks."
It should be interesting to see if last night's results alter JOB's approach to the playing rotation. The Chicago Bulls are a whole different beast than the New Jersey Nets team that showed up at the Fieldhouse last night, so tonight will offer an opportunity to see if Hibbert can back up his good play.
Tyler Hansbrough hopes to return from his illness which I'm assuming isn't really pneumonia or at least a very mild case if it is a one-day sickness. If Hansbrough returns, there's no reason he can't be given plenty of minutes off the bench or in a different spot in the rotation. Again, he's a better fit with Collison, so mixing and matching what's working continues to be a complicated task for JOB.
Hopefully, McRoberts will remain in the starting lineup to see if he and Hibbert can both build on their play last night. It is apparent that they can be good for each other if they play a certain way, and that's really good for the Pacers.