MIAMI — With 9:20 left in the 3rd quarter on Wednesday night, Roy Hibbert picked up his fourth foul. The Indiana Pacers were leading the Miami Heat by a score of 56 to 47 at the time, which can be seen as definite breathing room when these two sides meet.
Hibbert’s effectiveness against the shorter front line of Miami was obvious just over a week ago, when the 7-2 center poured in 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting. On the other end, Hibbert serves as the last line of defense against the constant powerful drives from the likes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
This scenario left Pacers’ head coach Frank Vogel with a difficult decision: remove Hibbert from the game to avoid him quickly picking up his fifth foul, or keep his most important player on the front line against the Heat, on the floor.
Vogel chose to let Hibbert play it out, showing trust in his starting center. 46 game seconds later, Miami’s Chris Bosh drew Hibbert’s fifth foul, which would keep him on the bench until 6:12 of the fourth quarter. By then the Heat were back in the game, down just four points, with the most dominant player in the NBA clicking on all cylinders.
James scored 12 of his 24 points in the second half, clearly energized by Hibbert and his rim-protecting prowess sitting on the sidelines. He would finish Miami’s 97-94 victory with a near triple-double, racking up nine rebounds and seven assists, while Hibbert ended with six points and two rebounds in just 22 minutes of playing time.
Paul George showed signs of regaining his early-season shooting form. He finished with 25 points on 50 percent shooting, while also pitching in eight boards and six assists.
George’s sixth three-point attempt of the game might’ve been the most interesting even though it missed. With four seconds left, the Pacers down three after Ray Allen sank two free throws, George fired from the top of the arc with what seemed like James’ hands draped on his waist. Alas, no whistle was to be heard, the three missed, and the Pacers would lose just their fifth game of the 2013-14 season.
It’s reasonable to believe these two teams will meet again in the Eastern Conference finals, as the rest of the conference lags behind in both the standings and talent to match both Indiana and Miami. Until then, they’ll square off just one more time in the regular season, when the Heat will visit Indianapolis on March 26th.
Hopefully that won’t be the last.
Brandon Curry is the Pacers Beat Writer at the Indy Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Pacers and has full media access. Follow Brandon and the ISRon Twitter.
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