Did Pero Antic get Roy Hibbert out of the NBA!2021|04:24
Heading into the 2014 Playoffs, Roy Hibbert was an All-Star and 2nd Team All-Defense, anchoring the Pacers’ D to the best record in the East. But the first round against the 8 seeded Hawks showed that his considerable talents were increasingly becoming obsolete with the way the game was being played, and even though very few people at the time knew it, this series was an early sign of things to come, which would end his career in just 3 short years. Did my fellow Macedonian Pero Antic have something to do with that? Let’s dive deeper. What up everybody my name is Stefan and this is Heat Check. Let’s get into it. We all know how much the 3-point revolution and small ball have changed the game over the last decade, but back in 2014, this process was still in its infancy. The Pacers were the best defensive team in the league, mostly thanks to Roy Hibbert contesting drives with his 7’2’’ frame, 7’4’’ wingspan, and of course his rule of verticality. Alongside Paul George, David West, and Lance Stevenson, there were some who picked the Pacers to come out of the East that year, beating LeBron and D-Wade on their way to the Finals. But then, Round 1 Game 1 happened, Hibbert matching up against 2 capable shooters from distance. Paul Milsap as well as the relatively unknown 31-year-old rookie from Macedonia, Pero Antic, who spent the previous 13 years playing in Europe. Antic averaged just 7 points and 4 rebounds in the regular season, but the concern for the Pacers was that the big man could make shots from downtown, at 33% for the season - and the matchup problems that this might create at the center position. Look at how naturally Hibbert is drawn inside towards protecting the basket, but Antic makes the three early on and let’s the Pacers know that their big man would have to get further out. So since that adjustment needed to be made, the lane opened up and Jeff Teague used that to knife his way straight to the rim for a layup. Again, it was either that, or the long range bombs by the Atlanta frontcourt. This way the Hawks fought to a stunning game 1 victory, sending a strong message to the Indiana coaching staff. In game 2 Frank Vogel adjusted slightly by putting Hibbert on Millsap, but Millsap is also of course more than capable of scoring from distance. And as you can see, he still needed to be defending out at the three point line, and left the rim unprotected. Something that was Indiana’s biggest strength previously, was suddenly taken away. With 4:40 left in the 3rd quarter, the Pacers fate hung in the balance, only up by 3 (66-63). This is where Vogel pulled Hibbert out and Indiana went on a spectacular 27 to 4 run, blowing the game open and tying the series. Even though Antic struggled from three for the rest of the series, making only 1 of 20 after Game 1, the threat that both him and Milsap posed, and the fact that Hibbert couldn’t be at the only spot that he was great at-which is under the basket kind of made him unplayable against this team. Even Paul George said that Indiana was looking to play small in order to match up well against the Hawks. For the next 4 games, he averaged only 17 minutes per game, a clear contrast from almost 30 in the regular season, and 32 and a half for the rest of this playoff run. The most obvious example of this is Game 6, where Hibbert played only 12 minutes. The Pacers won the series in 7 games and for the rest of the playoffs Roy Hibbert went back to looking more like his old self, but that’s because the Wizards and to lesser extent the Heat played relatively traditional lineups where Hibbert’s talents could be of service. Washington played Marcin Gortat and Nene at the same time for the whole series, while Miami experimented with some small ball lineups but still played Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen. Hibbert was able to maintain similar numbers for just the next season, but after that his production fell off a cliff and already by 2017 he was out of the league at age 30. And looking back on it, it was the NBA getting faster, shooting more and more threes, and this series is where Coach Bud, Pero Antic, and Paul Millsap showed the early signs of the game’s revolution which left many players like Hibbert behind.