BIG ROY came up with a big answer for his critics and his teammates last night. He played like an All-Star when the Pacers really needed it.
After 48 hours of questions and criticism, Roy Hibbert scored a season-high 28 points, grabbed nine rebounds, blocked two shots and altered a handful of others to help the Pacers get even in the Eastern Conference semifinals with an 86-82 victory over visiting Washington.
Hibbert sounded more relieved than redeemed.
"David [West] always talks to me about being the person that rescues yourself when you're in the middle of the ocean," Hibbert said after Indiana tied the best-of-seven series at 1-1. "There's nobody who can throw a lifesaver or a rope out to help you. So I had to do it myself."
The next step is proving he can play this way again tomorrow when Washington hosts Game 3.
Hibbert went into yesterday with a combined total of 37 points and 24 rebounds in Indiana's first eight playoff games. Twice in the previous four he failed to score a point or grab a rebound.
Beleaguered Pacers fans wanted Hibbert benched. Frustrated teammates talked publicly and privately about needing more from their 7-2 center. Critics turned Hibbert into the butt of jokes and on the Internet, some even tried to explain Hibbert's incredible disappearing act with unseemly speculation.
After talking to his old college coach, John Thompson III, and Colts linebacker Robert Mathis, a close friend, Hibbert blocked out the inescapable firestorm, focused on basketball and fueled the decisive 6-0 run late in the fourth quarter.
It was enough to put repeated smiles on Hibbert's face, even if he considers it only a start.
"I just want to string a few games together," he said. "Consistency hasn't been my biggest friend this year. I'm going to try to continue to play aggressive and I'm going to try to control the things I can control. I can't control play calls, but I can control how hard I play, how fast I run down the court and how well I play defense."
George Hill finished with 14 points, Paul George had 11 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Lance Stephenson added 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists. And for the first time this postseason, the Pacers held an opponent to fewer than nine three-pointers. Washington finished 5-for-21 from behind the arc, the lowest percentage (23.8) in the playoffs this year.
In Pacers news, team officials announced that Andrew Bynum would miss the rest of the playoffs and would not be with the team for the rest of the postseason.
* NBA owners went back to work on commissioner Adam Silver's desire to end Donald Sterling's ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers. The advisory/finance committee held its second conference call in the past 2 weeks, reviewing the timing and process for forcing Sterling to sell the franchise after his lifetime ban for making racist comments.