Akshay Manwani Freelance writer based in Mumbai

In an attempt to rid himself of the perils of performance appraisals, Akshay ventured into the world of freelance writing where he combined his twin interests of sports and cinema. He has since contributed to The Caravan, BCCI.tv, Business Standard and Man's World, among other publications. He has followed the fortunes of the NBA since the early ’90s, an experience that has given him extraordinary moments of joy in an otherwise mundane existence.

All season long, Akshay will cover the League from the point of view of a basketball expert living in India. Follow him every week on NBA.com/india!

Roy Hibbert: When Big becomes Small

As the Indiana Pacers find their season on the brink, questions must be asked of their big center Roy Hibbert. Hibbert, who has just played under 110 minutes in five games in this series, which averages to 22.0 mpg and has logged only 4.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg and 0.6 bpg.

Given that Hibbert averaged 29.7 mpg, 10.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg and 2.2 bpg in the regular season, some questions have arisen about the big man's ability to stand tall during the Playoffs.

But then again, we should have seen this coming for consistency has been an issue in Hibbert’s case now at least for the last couple of seasons.


Roy Hibbert and Atlanta Hawks' Center, Pero Antic

At the beginning of the 2012-13 season, Hibbert was widely expected to take the next big leap in his developing game as he averaged 11.7 ppg, 11.2 rpg and 3.1 bpg in the 2012 postseason when the Pacers were knocked out in six games in the Eastern Conference semi-finals by the Miami Heat. But Hibbert got off to a slow start, averaging only 10.0 ppg and 8.3 rpg in 53 games before the 2013 All-star break. However, in the 26 games after the All-Star weekend, Hibbert seemed to be a new player. He powered Indiana into the 2013 postseason with numbers that read 15.7 ppg and 8.2 rpg. Then, as Indiana took the Heat to seven games in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, Hibbert posted his best playoffs showing, averaging 17.0 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.9 bpg and 36.5 mpg over 19 games.

With the Pacers committing themselves to the objective of getting home-court advantage right through the 2014 Eastern Conference Playoffs, it was imperative that Indiana have a strong regular season showing. Hibbert and Indiana began on the right note, with the Pacers going 40-12 before All-Star weekend in New Orleans and Hibbert averaging 11.8 ppg and 7.7 rpg in the same period. According to basketball-reference.com, Hibbert had an offensive rating of 104 and defensive rating of 95 and was the frontrunner for the Defensive Player of the Year for anchoring Indiana’s suffocating defense in this period.

But when Indiana’s downward spiral began, a 16-14 record in their last 30 games of the 2013-14 season vindication of this decline, Hibbert’s numbers reflected the drop off. In his 29 games for Indiana after New Orleans, Hibbert averaged only 8.9 ppg and 4.7 rpg, with his offensive and defensive rating numbers standing at a shocking 88 and 106 in this stretch before the playoffs.

Now as the Pacers look to stave off elimination heading into Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks, Hibbert’s form is a big worry for Indiana. This after Hibbert was benched for the second half of Indiana’s Game 5 loss and ended the game with zero points and zero rebounds in 12 minutes. Adam Fromal from bleacherreport.com was absolutely blunt in his advice to Indiana for Hibbert’s disappearance in these playoffs. “There's a simple solution to the Indiana Pacers' Roy Hibbert problem. Bench him. Seriously,” wrote Fromal. He went on to add, “When the big man is collecting splinters in his derriere, Indiana has scored 106.9 points per 100 possessions and given up 103.6 over the same span. But when he plays, the former number plummets to 98.6, while the latter rises to 105.7.”


Paul George and Roy Hibbert

The problem with Hibbert, as Fromal goes on to write, is that ever since the second half of this season, teams have figured out that the Indiana center does not make much of a defensive impact while away from the rim. Atlanta has used this to their advantage, by spacing the floor and having knock-down shooters. And which is why Pero Antic has had so much success at the five-spot against Hibbert, who hasn’t played a single minute in the fourth quarter since Game 1.

Great players step up big on the stage that is the NBA Playoffs. Will Hibbert join those ranks?

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