“Don’t look now, but that gangly, seemingly uncoordinated youngster from two years ago has grown into one of the country’s finest big men. And we’re not just talking the college game.”
It took longer than many expected for the 7-foot-2 Hibbert to establish his old school post play in the NBA, but this season, that awkward kid who couldn’t run on a treadmill has blossomed into an All-Star. And on Thursday in Indiana’s 94-75 Game 3 blowout of the Miami Heat, Hibbert put on a show.
With 19 points, 18 rebounds and five blocked shots, Hibbert ravaged Miami’s depleted interior, exploiting a defense lacking a viable post presence and frustrating driving guards on the other end.
It was the type of dominant, yet not-too-flashy, performance people have come to expect from another old school, fundamentally sound big man: Tim Duncan.
It’s hardly a surprise that Hibbert has tried to model parts of his game after the man nicknamed “The Big Fundamental,” and after the two spent time together during the lockout, Duncan has become one of Hibbert’s biggest supporters.
After his Spurs beat the Clippers to grab a 2-0 lead, Duncan took the time to text Hibbert, congratulating him on his big night.
“I had a roller coaster first three years in terms of my career,” Hibbert told the Indianapolis Star. “(Duncan) doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low. I model my game after him. He’s somebody who looks out for me.”
Pacers coach Frank Vogel continues to preach defense and rebounding, and on Thursday night, Indiana dominated in both areas. Miami shot just 37 percent from the field — including 4 of 20 from three-point range — and was manhandled on the boards by a 52-36 margin. And with Heat forward Chris Bosh likely out for the remainder of the series, two more similar efforts from Hibbert and the Indiana frontcourt could help the Pacers oust the defending Eastern Conference champions and advance to their first conference finals since the 2003-04 season.
“Roy’s been the biggest key in this series,” Pacers point guard Darren Collison told Star. “He’s been protecting the paint better than I’ve ever seen him. It’s not just his effort. His effort is there, but also is his assertiveness. Those are the types of numbers you expect from an All-Star center.”