So, let’s look at the Hibbert and James meetings at the rim from last night. These collisions are one of the most important aspects of the Indiana-Miami matchup. They will likely play a huge role in determining a game or the entire series when the two Eastern Conference powerhouses meet in the playoffs. (Brooklyn or Chicago could really screw that up.)
There were four meetings at the rim, and James won the first half, as he was 2 of 2 when Hibbert contested him at the rim. In the first quarter, a ball screen got Hibbert on the move, and prevented Hibbert from holding his position like he normally does so well.
The result was a fairly easy lay in for James.
In the second quarter we got to see James finish over Hibbert’s verticality. Hibbert isn’t on the move so he holds his positioning much better, but James still scores.
One thing to note is how terribly David West and Lance Stephenson defend this pick and roll. They end up screening each other.
Also, the lane is not clogged. This makes it easier for James to finish over Hibbert. The more bodies Indiana can get around James at the rim the better.
On to the fourth quarter, where we had a collision that almost changed the course of the game, and will be one of the defining moments for the Hibbert-James showdowns.
Hibbert got rocked in the chin by James’ elbow. Bloodied and woozy, Hibbert had to come out of the locker room to shoot the free throws that accompanied the flagrant foul called on James. (How is that an acceptable thing in the NBA? We have more and more protocols with head shots and concussions in the NFL, but Hibbert still had to shoot the free throws?)
After the game James was far from apologetic. And he shouldn’t be; basketball is a contact sport, and no, he didn’t do that on purpose.
LeBron on Hibbert: "His face happened to hit my elbow." Says he'd have to be a Kung Fu master to direct elbow there mid-air.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) March 27, 2014
Hibbert said he doesn’t remember getting popped by LeBron. "It didn’t feel too good." He cut his tongue and passed the concussion test.— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) March 27, 2014
But Hibbert came back in, which may have been ill advised, and we got one more meeting at the rim. This time Hibbert won. He forced a tough shot, and James couldn’t convert it. Indiana switched a ball screen just before this, which is why West is defending James.
Hibbert may have kept the ball out of the basket, but he looks slightly broken as he hobbles down court.
In the first James drive, Hibbert was involved in defending the ball screen, while in the other three, Hibbert is coming with help side defense. It is probably in Miami's best interest to get Hibbert moving so that he can't get superior positioning and take advantage of the verticality rule.
This is why Hibbert is so valuable as a defender. He can take a layup away from a freight train when the perimeter defense fails. Screw up a pick and roll? Well, Hibbert has your back. Get an unfavorable matchup off of a switch?Hibbert has your back.
It was just four plays, but these meetings are what the Pacers have that can knock off the Heat. Hibbert's presence also helped lead to James attempting just two shots in the lane in the fourth quarter, If Indiana can keep him out of the lane in the playoffs, it'll go a long way into knocking off Miami.