Hibbert getting his groove back

March 26, 2012 -- It could be quicker decisions with the ball.

It could be consistently establishing deeper post position.

It could be a re-focusing by teammates to play through, rather than around, him.

It could be an inner determination to stop a slump that started, strangely enough, after the first 30-point game of his career.

Most likely, it's all of these things that add up to a very encouraging result for the Pacers: Roy Hibbert is getting his groove back, just in time for the stretch run.

"He's playing good basketball," Coach Frank Vogel said. "Everybody wants to get on Roy. Every center in the league, if you play against four of the best defenses in the league consecutively you're not going to have your normal scoring average.

"He's a heck of a basketball player, he helps us in so many ways other than scoring, he really rebounds the ball well, anchoring our defense, passing the basketball, he's the best passing big man in the game. He's a big part of what we do."

In the last five games, Hibbert has averaged 18.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots and shot 58.6 percent from the field (34 of 58). In that span, the Pacers knocked off the Clippers at home and the Wizards and Bucks on the road.

This represents a remarkable recovery from an eight-game slump in which Hibbert averaged 7.5 points and shot 33.3 percent -- mystifying because it came on the heels of his career-high 30-point outing against New Orleans.

Hibbert averaged only 7.5 shots in that stretch, compared to 11.6 in the last five games, but that's a chicken-egg stat. Was he getting fewer shots because he was struggling, or was he struggling because he was getting fewer shots?

"You go through that at points in the season," David West said. "He's just being aggressive. We play through him, he's staying really active, carrying a big part of the load right now."

The foundation of Vogel's "smash-mouth" offensive approach is to play through the team's powerful post tandem of Hibbert and West. The two provided 31 points to establish the tone in the rout of Milwaukee Saturday. Having traded away center Andrew Bogut to acquire Monta Ellis from Golden State, the Bucks were vulnerable inside and the Pacers took full advantage.

Because of his status as a first-time All-Star, Hibbert also became much more of a target for opposing players and coaches. Going up against an All-Star provides extra motivation for the players guarding him and strategic fodder for the coaches.

In the Pacers' 28 victories, Hibbert has averaged a double-double (14.0 points, 10.1 rebounds) and shot 53.8 percent from the floor. In 19 losses, he has averaged 11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and shot 44.5 percent.

"I am still a work in progress," Hibbert said. "(I) need to keep working on a lot of things to get my game to the point where I can help my teammates, night in and night out."

Whatever the factors that contributed to Hibbert's slump, they have been overcome. He once again is the man in the middle of everything.

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