Roy Hibbert dominated Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. The Miami Heat had no response for the Indiana Pacers' big man as he took advantage of Miami's smaller defensive front court and was active on the offensive glass. Miami must make a focused effort to play physical against Hibbert or he will continue to swing the series in Indiana's favor.
Hibbert's effectiveness at grabbing offensive rebounds has been amplified throughout the series. During the regular season Hibbert was second in the league in offensive rebound percentage, grabbing an average of 14.8 percent of the available missed shots on offense. In four games against Miami in the Eastern Conference finals, he's pulling down 21.8 percent of Indiana's misses. The league leader through the regular season was Reggie Evans at 15.5 percent.
Miami has to do a better job of keeping a body on Hibbert.
Here, both Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem challenge David West while he puts up a difficult shot. Both of Miami's bigs are occupied challenging a single shot, and neither LeBron James or Mario Chalmers rotate to box out Hibbert.
Hibbert grabs the rebound while surrounded by four Heat players. The only defender in front of Hibbert is Chalmers, who has no chance at making a play against at the rim. Hibbert easily scores over Chalmers. Miami has to make an effort to box out Hibbert and make him work to grab the offensive rebound.
Aside from not properly boxing out, another reason Hibbert is rebounding at high rate is the Heat overcommitting to challenging shots. Their perimeter defenders must do a better job of containing dribble penetration in isolation, and their interior defense must make better decisions.
Here, Ray Allen can't stop Lance Stephenson in isolation and Chris Andersen rotates to challenge the shot. This is another instance of Miami committing too many defenders. A total of three Heat defenders surround Stephenson, who misses, but Hibbert is able to score on the putback without any resistance.
It's not just second-chance points, though. Hibbert is shooting 62 percent around the rim through the series. In Game 4, he was decisive with the ball in his hands, not hesitating to score over the top of Bosh or Andersen.
Here, Hibbert has the ball in good position against Bosh. Both Dwyane Wade and Haslem are cheating to the paint, but because Hibbert wastes no time once he has the ball, they are unable to help.
Hibbert is actively fighting for position in the low-post, and it is inevitable that he will seal his man throughout the course of the game. When that happens, the nearest defender to Hibbert must be ready to rotate to help. In the instance above, Wade needs to dig deeper into the paint so he can immediately help Bosh.
While Wade would leave Stephenson on the perimeter, this forces Hibbert to pass out of the post. Leaving their big men, especially an undersized Bosh, in isolation to defend Hibbert isn't going to work. It's a small adjustment, but Wade moving a few inches closer to Hibbert can make a difference.
The Heat's frontcourt must also do their part in staying in front of Hibbert. Here, Andersen is doing a good job of fronting Hibbert and denying him deep position.
Andersen makes the mistake of taking his body off of Hibbert, however, and gives him a lane to seal him in the post.
Why did Andersen step away from Hibbert? Andersen started to cheat towards the ball-handler, anticipating dribble penetration. This is a mistake, as Miami's defense had Paul George contained by both James and Shane Battier. George has to pass the ball to the perimeter to reset the offense. West sees that Hibbert has great position on Andersen, hits him with the pass, and he scores over the top of Andersen. Miami's defense tries to help, but it's too late.
Hibbert and the Pacers are proving to be a serious threat to the Heat's quest for their third-straight trip to the NBA finals. Miami faces a challenge many anticipated when the team was brought together -- it has to find a way to deal with an elite threat in the post.
With the series tied, 2-2, Miami heads home for Game 5 and has a chance to move one game closer to the NBA Finals. How the Heat deal with Hibbert will be a determining factor.