News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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April 26, 2014

Hibbert becomes symbol of Pacers’ playoff struggles

ATLANTA — Fairly or not, Roy Hibbert has become the symbol of all that’s wrong with the Indiana Pacers.

He hopes to turn that around today, no matter what his role.

The 7-foot-2 center has struggled mightily in the first three games against the Atlanta Hawks, raising the possibility of coming off the bench in Game 4. The top-seeded Pacers are down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series and must steal a win at Philips Arena to avoid a mammoth upset.

Coach Frank Vogel was tightlipped about his lineup plans. The Pacers have been more effective against the eighth-seeded Hawks with a smaller unit on the court — and Hibbert on the bench.

“You’ll find out tomorrow,” was all Vogel would say Friday, not long after a spirited film session at the team hotel.

Hibbert has scored only 18 points in the series on 7-of-25 shooting, and he looked downright lost in Atlanta’s 98-85 win in Game 3. Several times, his shots were so far off the mark he didn’t really seem to know where he was on the court. He also has struggled at the defensive end, lured out of his comfort zone near the basket by the outside shooting of center Pero Antic and forward Paul Millsap.

Atlanta’s big men have put up a combined 26 shots from beyond the 3-point line, presenting all sorts of matchup problems for the lumbering Hibbert.

“It’s a difficult lineup for me,” Hibbert said. “I’m not used to it. It takes me out of position to protect the paint and to get rebounds in the paint and contest shots.”

The Pacers have actually been more effective without a true center on the court, thanks to Luis Scola. The 6-9 forward has scored 37 points in the last two games, giving the Hawks fits with his mid-range shooting.

Hibbert said he’s going on the assumption that he’ll be starting in Game 4, but he wants what’s best for the team.

“I’ll do whatever Coach feels is necessary to win,” he said. “As far as I know, I’m still playing. I don’t know if it will be with the second unit.”

The Hawks hardly look like a team that finished six games below .500 during the regular season, playing with the swagger and confidence of a group that truly feels it can become only the sixth No. 8 seed to knock off the top seed in the opening round.

 

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