Miami-Indiana Game 1: Roy Hibbert Or Not, It Wouldn’t Have Mattered

Lost in the Frank Vogel-aimed yelling is a play from late in the 4th quarter, when Dwyane Wade streaked in for a layup over Roy Hibbert. It gave Miami a two-point lead, but more importantly poked a giant hole in the Hibbert-led Indiana defense; he can’t cover Bosh as a shooter and protect the rim at the same time. You knew this already. Frank Vogel knew this already. But particularly in late-game situations, when defenders tend to sag and players tend to settle for long jumpers, Hibbert’s presence probably seemed all the more costly; his natural tendency to protect the rim could have left Chris Bosh wide open.

First, back to that Wade play: 49 seconds to go in the 4th quarter, Miami and Indiana tied at 89. LeBron James, at the elbow, sets a pindown screen for Ray Allen, who cuts towards the three-point line into a pick-and-pop with Dwyane Wade. A very common screen-the-screener action.

Wade 1

Indiana switches to ensure Allen won’t be left open; Wade is dared to attack the rim with Roy Hibbert waiting. Or, wait: look where Roy Hibbert is, all the way out at the elbow shadowing Chris Bosh. There’s a gaping hole towards the rim that Wade exploits with one quick dribble.

What made Hibbert so effective against New York, and Miami last season, is his ability to camp out in the paint and leave his man free to roam elsewhere. But with Chris Bosh at the five, this isn’t an option. He has to (*gasp*) move.

Wade 2

Hibbert slides over to protect the rim as Wade drives, but it’s too late. He’s not standing still, and Wade is likely to draw a foul should Hibbert flail his arms at the ball. Meanwhile, Chris Bosh is rolling to the rim. One Hibbert step too far and Wade drops it off for a dunk.

Wade 3

Hibbert gets caught – he’s too late on the drive, and nervous to leave Bosh. Wade’s layup isn’t contested all that heavily.

So why does this play matter? Because near the end of overtime, Miami ran a nearly identical action, this time with LeBron handling the ball. Norris Cole, who starts in the left corner, runs off two screens before running the pick-and-pop with James.

LeBron 1a

LeBron 1b

With Hibbert out of the game, Miami spreads the floor even further. Except this time, Chris Bosh is in the near corner – yet still dragging his man, David West, away from the hoop. What’s supposed to happen here – on Indiana’s side of things – is for George Hill, on the switch, to lay off LeBron and goad him into shooting the ball. But Hill creeps up a bit too far, allowing LeBron to explode towards the hoop. David West, who is glued to Bosh, can’t do anything but weakly swipe at the ball. Remember that LeBron’s a willing passer in these situations.

LeBron 1c

Think of it this way: what if Hibbert were in West’s place? He’d still be stuck on Bosh, who is spaced all the way out to the three-point line. If he were to help, he’d leave Bosh wide open for a three. Hibbert or not, this is lose-lose. Maybe there’s something to be said about Indiana’s switching, but that’s a weak argument, at best. In late-game situations, pick-and-roll confusion is the last thing a defense needs. The auto-switch solves that problem easily.

And here’s the final play, which has more of the same spread-the-floor elements. Miami runs some tricky action (diagrammed below), all of which Indiana switches on.

LeBron 2a

Tyler Hansbrough follows Ray Allen into the corner. Sam Young switches onto Chris Bosh. David West is on Shane Battier. There’s no one for Hibbert to guard, and there’s a hell of a lot going on – all of which, by the way, leads to the floor being spread and George one-on-one against James. The only feasible argument is to have Hibbert on the inbounder, Shane Battier, but that leaves a much quicker Battier being guarded by Hibbert while undercutting Hibbert’s real on-court value anyway. So, again: even with Hibbert on the floor here, he probably wouldn’t have been able to provide the necessary help anyway amidst all the confusion and floor-spreading. As we’ve seen throughout these playoffs, a non-restricted area Hibbert is a mostly worthless Hibbert.

LeBron 2c

Vogel trusts George to force a jump shot by laying off. He doesn’t, and the game ends.

So what am I saying, exactly? Hibbert or not, it wouldn’t have mattered. Miami’s offensive sets in these final moments would have rendered him useless anyway. He’s simply not quick enough to recover towards the rim and protect. Vogel saw it (not) happen in that initial Wade play, and tried to compensate by trusting his other defenders. They didn’t execute properly, and so here we are, second guessing.

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Comments

  1. Great stuff as usual, Dylan. Always enjoy your break downs.

    One question I do have is regarding the second play, with West on the corner against Bosh. Had West helped on Lebron’s drive and left Bosh open in the corner, perhaps this isn’t a lose-lose situation? As good as Bosh’s mid-range jumper is, his shooting percentage drops substantially from behind the arc (about 30% from the corner). So if you are picking your poison, perhaps West would have better off helping on Lebron, and leaving Bosh open in the corner?

    • That’s definitely a valid point, though here’s my counter: shooting percentage is a compilation of contested and uncontested shots; if David West sags there, the shot is completely uncontested. I don’t have stats on Bosh’s shooting contested vs. uncontested, but I’d imagine the uncontested is substantially higher than 30%. I’ll actually have something on this next week relating to LeBron.

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