As West steps forward, Hibbert thrives in new role
May 1, 2012 -- So much of the focus of this series, before it began, was the matchup at center.
With Orlando Superman Dwight Howard out, surely Roy Hibbert would dominate inside. After all, this is a 7-2 All-Star playing against 6-9 Glen "Big Baby" Davis, a stand-in playing on a bum ankle.
It hasn't quite worked out that way.
While Hibbert has been a dominant force defensively, blocking 11 shots and pulling 26 rebounds in two games, he has attempted just 16 shots and totaled 12 points as the Pacers' offensive focus shifted in the first two games of their first-round playoff series.
As they head to Orlando for Game 3 Wednesday, the Pacers have turned to David West as their primary inside force.
"We definitely want more production from Roy inside but I've said all series since it began I know all the media's creating this mismatch with Roy Hibbert and Glen Davis," Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. "We've got a lot of guys that can score the ball.
"Roy's primary assignment in this series is to guard the paint and own and dominate the defensive end. He's done that in two games. We are going to go to him in the post just like we always do but we're not going to over-emphasize it when we have good matchups elsewhere."
West finished the regular season on a roll and it has extended into the playoffs. In the last eight games, West has averaged 19.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists, shooting .521 from the field. He also has averaged 15.1 shots, a substantial increase from his full-season average of 10.8. The veteran power forward averaged 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds during the regular season, but those are deceptive numbers.
When he joined the team as a free agent from New Orleans, West was coming off knee surgery and hadn't played basketball for months. It took him awhile to rebuild his conditioning, then regain his legs and ultimately his rhythm.
The past few weeks, he has been much more the West of old. In the first two games against Orlando, he has totaled 37 points, 20 rebounds and six assists.
"He's leading our team right now in competitive spirit and will and desire and all that stuff that doesn't show up in the box score," Vogel said. "He's providing our team with the necessary swagger to get a good playoff win.
"He's thinking the game, he's thinking play calls, he's thinking defensive rotations, defensive adjustments, always asking questions, should we do this, should we do that. He's just dialed in. He's a playoff-tested veteran and we're hopeful he's going to lead us very far in these playoffs."
Hibbert has no issues with the role change.
"That's my job," he said. "D-West has been playing great in the post and my thing is to get rebounds and block shots, defend and on the offensive end just try to tip out everything so we can get extra possessions. If we can get him going in the post, he's been killing it, so I'm satisfied with what I'm doing right now. If the coach wants me to adjust anything I will but it's all about winning.
"That's what I like to do, block shots and rebound, and that's what I've been doing. Offensively if I get some tips around the basket, that's fine. If coach calls a play or two for me, that's fine. Seriously, I'm the epitome of the team player. I want to see everybody else do well and whatever happens for me, happens for me."
Of course, it really isn't about either Hibbert or West, but rather both. They present a combination of size, strength and productivity that should be the Pacers' biggest advantage in this series.