During an otherwise-fun NBA Wednesday, the Wizards and Pacers played an ugly game that ended in a strange way. Down two points, the Pacers' last-second play in overtime ended with 7'2 Roy Hibbert, who hadn't hit a shot in the game, taking a three-pointer. This approach famously worked once when Hibbert was in college, but considering he's made only seven threes in his NBA career, it's no surprise it failed in this situation.
Surely, that wasn't the plan, right? According to Hibbert, it wasn't. Via the Indianapolis Star:
"It was not designed to go to me," Hibbert said. "It was in the corner of my eye and I saw the ball come to me so I had to shoot it. It's not my forte but we fought hard."
What was the plan then? As it turned out, coach Frank Vogel called an intricate play designed to confuse the Wizards' defense by giving them multiple looks. The problem is that players who aren't very good by NBA standards had to run it.
The set began with Chris Copeland darting across the middle of the floor to the left wing. Initially, it looks like he's coming to screen for Donald Sloan, a look the Pacers used throughout the game. But it's a decoy the Wizards read quickly.
Thus, Indiana moved on to stage 2: the incredibly threatening pick and roll between Sloan and LaVoy Allen.
The Wizards shouldn't mess this up because this is a pick and roll between Donald Sloan and LaVoy Allen. Except, it's not just a pick and roll between Donald Sloan and LaVoy Allen. There's something else going on.
The real play: Hibbert setting a backscreen for Chris Copeland to fade for a corner three-pointer to win the game. The hope is that the Sloan/Allen pick and roll scrambles the Wizards' defense enough to open the easy pass to the corner, leaving Copeland to knock down the game's most efficient shot outside of a layup.
Sounds great. Here are the problems:
The Sloan/Allen pick and roll has to actually break the Wizards' defense down. Remember: this is Donald Sloan and LaVoy Allen. Even with Sloan's big game (he had 31 points in the game), this isn't a daunting task for a defense. Washington ended up going small and switching the play, preventing any sort of breakdown.
The play supposes that Hibbert can actually pull his man away from the basket. He can't, of course, because he isn't a jump-shooter. If he could, his man might be worried about him popping open the way he ends up doing. Instead, Nene is just able to hang in the lane cutting off the two biggest threats: Sloan's drive and the pass to Copeland.
This defense is the equivalent of patting Hibbert on the head and saying "Sure, you can win the game. Go ahead." If the injured David West was in the game instead of Hibbert, Nene's approach would be different. But like any sane defender, Nene knows that Hibbert is not a threat from behind the three-point line. As long as he does his job stopping the greater threats, Nene's fine with Hibbert getting open.
And that's exactly what happened.
So no, the plan wasn't to get Roy Hibbert the ball for a game-winning three. It just sort of happened because the Pacers' few healthy players don't scare a defense enough.