The Indiana Pacers are not going to be at full strength going into the postseason. They’re going to be missing a very big piece in starting small forward Danny Granger. However, they’ve grown accustomed to playing without Granger, who has only played in a handful of games this year, and when the news broke that he would not be able to return this season they just kept on rolling.
Currently 48-27 overall, the Pacers have won their last five games and are 8-2 in their last 10. Very few teams would be able to maintain with the guy who is arguably their best player out for the year, but the Pacers have proven to be far from a one-man team. More important than their depth, though, has been the team’s commitment to defense.
“We’re just committed to guarding our own man,” Pacers center Roy Hibbert said to HOOPSWORLD. “Our guards and forwards take pride in defense and anything at the rim I try to clean up as much as possible.
“I just want to be the best defensive player I can be and hopefully in the league. I take pride in defense and I just want to make sure nobody scores in the paint.”
Every great defense has to have an anchor. In this day and age, with the tremendous skill level and athleticism of players, it’s impossible to keep them in front all the time. That’s where the big man has to come and help, which Hibbert does just about as well as any big man in the league.
“Being a seven footer, being the center, you have to protect the paint as much as possible,” Hibbert said. “I have my deficiencies but at the end of the day defense wins game.”
The deficiency that was being focused on the most early on in the season was Hibbert’s offensive game. He looked like a far cry from the player who was deserving of a max contract like the one he received in the offseason. He’s still not finishing at the rate he would like to, but Hibbert has definitely shown signs of improvement from a wrist injury that was the main culprit for his offensive downslide.
“It took some time for it to heal,” Hibbert said. “I was using my left hand for the most part of the beginning of the season. I’m still working on it. It’s still a work in progress.”
With seven games left in the season, Hibbert is confident about the direction of the team, but is glad they still have a little bit of time before the playoffs start.
“I think we’re good,” Hibbert said. “We’re peaking right now, winning on the road. Everything is coming together. We still have some work to do, obviously. Get people rolling and secure our seed, go ahead and hopefully win the conference. That’s the biggest thing.”