NBA Playoffs 2013: Adjusting the Pacers, Roy Hibbert, and their floor spacing

Mike Ehrmann

Roy Hibbert is best known as a key in the Pacers' defense, but the Pacers need to better use their big man in their offense if they want to come back against the Heat.

The Miami Heat's defense was prepared to deal with Roy Hibbert. The Heat swarmed the paint when the Indiana Pacers passed the ball into the low post to Hibbert, and forced the big man into shooting 46 percent at the rim. Indiana must adjust on offense by using Hibbert as more than a scorer. If the Pacers' offense works the ball inside out, they can open the floor, take advantage of Miami's willingness to commit to helping the post and create better shot opportunities.

The Pacers didn't do themselves any favors with their floor spacing. Their lack of perimeter threats gave Miami the option of helping on Hibbert. Here, Hibbert has Shane Battier isolated in the post, but because of the Pacers' spacing, Hibbert is crowded and misses an opportunity to score on a clear mismatch:

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The Pacers should always spread the floor, not give Miami less court to defend. All four of Indiana's players are on the opposite side. This allows the Heat to load up and help on Hibbert. If he had a single teammate on his side of the court he would have been able to either pass it out so he can re-post or have one less defender digging into the paint. Instead, he forces up a tough shot.

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The blame doesn't all belong to Indiana's spacing, however. Hibbert needs to be more aware of the defense and his teammates' positioning. Miami was aggressive at sending extra help on Hibbert, which can be exploited by moving the ball once an extra defender commits.

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Passing back out to Paul George does two things:

1) Dwyane Wade has to bounce back to the perimeter. George will potentially have space to take a shot or catch Wade off-balance while he's recovering.

2) Hibbert can re-seal his man once Wade bounces back to George, who can then pass the ball back in to give Hibbert a better scoring opportunity.

Instead, Hibbert makes a poor decision and takes the shot.

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Another way to use Hibbert in their offense is to make him an off-ball screener. The Pacers have had success this season using one of their bigs as a screener at the elbow while the ball is in the post. Here, Hibbert's screen creates a wide-open shot for David West.

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It not only gives West a great shot, but Hibbert is now in the low post, where he can seal his man. Since West pops out, it splits the defense and opens up the paint while the defense rotates. It may not always have such a clear payoff, but much like running screens repeatedly, it can generate offense for Indiana and give Miami's defense another look.

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If the Pacers aren't able to take advantage of having giant 7'2 Hibbert in the post, and if they don't start moving the ball after it reaches his hands, then they must find other ways to incorporate Hibbert into their game plan on offense. Using him as an off-ball screener is a great way to create open looks from mid-range and beyond the arc.

***

The Pacers putting the ball into Hibbert's hands is a sound strategy, but they have to be more creative, as a team, in the way they use him. Dumping the ball to their big man and leaving him on an island isn't good enough, but it is also imperative that he does a better job of passing the ball back out when the Pacers are properly spaced. The Pacers have an advantage they must find better ways to use in order to strike back in Game 2.

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