Hibbert goes up, gets the call
It was a play that spoke to the respect Roy Hibbert has earned and shut up the conspiracy theorists.
With 4:18 remaining and the Pacers leading Miami by nine points, LeBron James beat Paul George off the dribble and drove hard to the basket and tried to dunk it. Hibbert met him at the rim – or “mountaintop,” as James described it – and went straight up and drew a charging foul.
That kind of call isn’t supposed to go against James in a crucial moment of a playoff game according to those who believe the NBA’s front office dictates favorable officiating for him, but it did. It likely wouldn’t have been called that way last season, or even earlier this season, but Hibbert has clearly earned the benefit of the doubt from the officials for his effective defensive play around the basket this postseason.
James was so incensed by the lack of a foul call on Hibbert that he sprinted to the other end of the court, an action that drew a technical foul and delighted the Bankers Life fans. George Hill hit both technical foul shots with 4:18 left to extend the Pacers’ lead to 11, and Hibbert followed with a layup off Paul George’s feed to put the Pacers in a major comfort zone with a 13-point lead with 3:55 remaining.
“I had to run down the court to stop from being kicked out,” James said following the Pacers’ 91-77 victory. “I thought it was a pretty bad call. I don’t complain about calls too much. I thought me and Hibbert met at the mountaintop. I didn’t throw an elbow. Basically, I went straight up. And I knew he was going to go high hands, like he had been doing. So I went to a double-clutch to try to let him go down. Then I was able to go over the top. I don’t have no idea why that was called an offensive foul.”
Hibbert has not been the shot-blocking menace against the Heat that he was in the first two rounds against Atlanta and New York. He has seven blocks in this series. He totaled 30 in the first two rounds. But despite having just one block he made more plays at the rim on Saturday, and was a factor in Miami shooting just 36 percent from the field.
“That play right there, I tell Paul I have his back all the time,” Hibbert said. “If he gets beat, LeBron has a large launching pad. I don’t block a lot of shots all the time, but I try to alter them as much as possible and not give up any easy plays.
“Because the momentum could have shifted there if he got an easy dunk.”