In one of the more amazing games of the playoffs, the Pacers almost knocked off the Heat at home. Up by one point, with 2.2 seconds left, the Pacers were faced with how to best defend the Heat. As we all know now, the Pacers chose to sit Roy Hibbert and play Sam Young, a perimeter defender, instead of their big shot blocker. Would Hibbert have made a difference? Maybe…Let’s take a look at the final play and see what we can gleam:
-The Heat had Shane Battier inbound the ball near half court and David West guarded that pass. West played up on the pass but allowed Battier pass the ball towards the three point line and denied any passes toward the foul line or the corners.
-The Heat put in shooters Norris Cole and Ray Allen at opposite ends of the base line. George Hill was on Cole and Sam Young played Ray Allen.
-Chris Bosh was at the top of the key with Tyler Hansbrough on him.
-LBJ stood at the foul line elbow with Paul George guarding him.
-The Heat then ran a motion play to get someone open. Allen ran from the baseline across the three point line around Bosh (who was also cutting to the corner vacate by Allen) and in front of James.
-As Hansbrough switched to Allen near the foul line, James ran a quick curl and Hansbrough’s presence actually slightly blocked George from defending the pass.
-When James caught the pass near the top of the key after the curl, George stepped up almost adjacent to LBJ’s right side, giving James an open lane on the left. In an even race to the basket with George, James glided to the basket easily for a basically uncontested layup.
-The motion play had vacated the paint of any help defenders. The closest help defender was Young, who had been sort of guarding Bosh in the corner. LBJ was going too hard and too fast for Young to get there in time or do anything.
Having seen how the play worked out, where would Hibbert had made a big difference? If Hibbert was man on man with Bosh, he probably would’ve had to switch onto Allen (as Hasnbrough did) and would not likely have been a factor on the play. If they had Hibbert just guard the paint and not tightly stay with a small faster player, Bosh (or some other Heat player) would’ve had a wide open jumper. This scenario would’ve been preferable to LBJ’s wide open layup but also not an ideal (the ideal would’ve been Cole or Allen shooting a contested long jumper).
In the end, no matter what the Pacers did with Hibbert, the game was lost when George overplayed James. Had George given James a few feet cushion, this would’ve force LBJ into a makeable but lower percentage jumper. Even if Hibbert was somehow guarding the rim on the play, blocking a wide open James would be tough and, though Hibbert could conceivably block him (just ask Carmelo Anthony), it is most likely that James would’ve gone to the foul line. This is better than the actual result but not great either. Actually, the best move would’ve been to put the long armed Hibbert on the inbounds and deny a clean pass to anyone (particularly LeBron). This is easier said than done but, with 2.2 seconds left, the harder the Pacers made the commencement of the play, the harder it would’ve been for the Heat to execute. Frank Vogel made some mistakes hear but the notion that Hibbert in the paint would stop James is not very likely.