I caught up with Indiana Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson after their Game 2 win over the Washington Wizards to even their Eastern Conference Semifinals series at one game a piece, wherein he contributed 12 points (all in the second half), seven rebounds and five assists.
But the story of the game came in the form of Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who had been struggling mightily as of late, and laid an egg in both scoring and rebounding in their Game 1 loss at home. In Game 2, Hibbert broke out of his stupor and exploded for 28 points and nine boards, on top of countless hustle plays which saw him diving on the floor and contesting every possible shot in the paint.
As far as Stephenson is concerned, the mercurial ball of energy believes that getting his big man involved on the offensive end early will lead to overall success. Matter fact, it was Stephenson who dished to Hibbert for the first bucket of Game 2, which got the ball rolling for the big fella.
“I told him (Hibbert) every time I get the ball, I’m going to give it to him in the post tonight,” Stephenson told this scribe after the game. “I told him to be ready. I felt like in the last couple of games, we haven’t been looking for him as much, so I told him every time I get it, he’s going to get it from me,” added Stephenson.
As far as what his team did differently in the second game, Stephenson continued to point out the importance of feeding his two-time All-Star center as their formula for success.
"Look for Roy (Hibbert) more. When we look for Roy - he gets some buckets - on the defensive end he does extra stuff. He gets steals, he gets blocks, he gets rebounds. He hasn't gotten rebounds in a long time, tonight we gave him the ball, he gave us some points, he got rebounds. We just got to keep big dog happy and play through him," said Stephenson.
The Pacers definitely need to keep Hibbert involved as they are a grind-it-out team that uses size to their advantage more than any other team in the NBA. Somewhere along the way, the Pacers fell in love with their perimeter shooting and forgot to pound the ball in the paint consistently. Though it's too early to say whether Hibbert "is back", it's good to see that the Pacers have rediscovered their formula for success.