The Indiana Pacers‘ 2014 woes have been well-documented, but they finally laid a little smack on someone, thanks in part to the much-maligned Roy Hibbert, who finally, finally played with a smile.
Game 3 against the Washington Wizards started out like so many of the others, with a remarkable number of missed shots and historically low first-half score. It felt familiar: heavy and plodding and miserable. But those who read between the lines could see the guys were playing hard and defending well. And, miracle of wonders, the Pacers ended up ahead at halftime, 34-33, with Hibbert accounting for eight points and three rebounds. Small victories.
When the game could have gone either way, the Pacers won the third quarter 26-12 and never looked back. The dumb turnovers were on Washington instead of Indiana for a change. When the shots started falling, the Pacers’ gorgeous defense was easier to see. For the first time in these playoffs (maybe in the entirety of 2014), it felt like they could possibly blow someone out. Their patented third quarter collapse was in play, and they fought it off. As rough as the first half was to watch, the second half was at least that fun.
I like Roy Hibbert a lot. He has a fascinating back story about how he was a “project” at Georgetown, a guy who didn’t necessarily have natural talent, just natural hugeness. He worked hard, and was arguably one of the poster children for the Pacers’ motto of “blue collar” and “built not bought.” He joined the team at a time when it wasn’t cool to be a Pacer and the fans weren’t paying a lot of attention, but he embraced it anyway. He engaged with the community and even got a part time gig at Entertainment 720. He was everything that an Indianapolis sports fan loves, and that’s why all of the talk these past few months of Hibbert leaving the team broke my heart. I wanted the Pacers to win, and I wanted them to do it with him. I wanted to see his narrative to completion.
We’ve seen some fools-gold games out of this Pacers team. We’ve said “they’re back” before. This time we mean it. This time they ran up the score on a pretty good team, and they did it with a smile. Seriously, guys, that’s all we ever wanted.