Pacers center Roy Hibbert is every bit of 7'2 with an even longer wingspan who has learned how to legally and effectively defend the interior against reckless offensive drives to the hoop. This gives the Pacers a distinct advantage over many teams and doesn't always sit well with opponents looking to draw a foul on the big fella only to run into his chest after he jumps straight up to deny the drive in its tracks.
Last season, one such encounter around the rim turned into the win-sealing play for the Pacers at the United Center when they beat the Bulls 80-76 in early December. The big win on the road helped kick the Pacers recovery from a slow start into overdrive and begin a 15-5 stretch.
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau was none too pleased when Hibbert absorbed a Luol Deng baseline drive which earned a no call and the ball for the Pacers. With the season approaching, Thibodeau expressed his concern with the way the restricted area is officiated and without mentioning the Pacers, nor Roy Hibbert, made it clear he doesn't like the advantage his Central Division rivals have around the rim, as he stated to NBA.com.
"Each year it gets better," Thibodeau said. "After a summer of watching our games [from last year], watching how the restricted area's being officiated is always something I'm concerned with. I think initially the offensive player was getting the benefit and they were throwing themselves into the defensive players and getting to the free-throw line.
"Then I think the officials adjusted to that - but now maybe going the other way. There are a lot of guys who are fouling in the restricted area and the defense is getting the benefit of the doubt. So I'm curious to see how that changes."
Come on, Thibs. You'd think such a defensive-minded coach would appreciate a well-defended rim. Plus, although Joakim Noah isn't quite as long as Hibbert, he could certainly maintain a similar advantage. Noah's athletic ability often allows him to jump out of the restricted area to draw a traditional charge, but maybe he should remain around the rim instead.
Regardless, no doubt Frank Vogel and the Pacers will continue reaffirming the league's stance on verticality and the way it has been called and continue to utilize Hibbert as the last line of a stout defense.
Here's a look at the play that had Thibs hopping mad last December (around 2:06 mark).
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