Indiana Pacers Coach Explains Decision to Bench Roy Hibbert

May 22, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (left) reacts on the bench with A.J. Price (right) agains the Miami Heat in the third quarter during game 5 of the 2012 NBA eastern conference semi-finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers put together a spirited effort in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but they came up short after Miami Heat star LeBron James was able hit the game-winning shot to lead Miami to victory. A large reason for Miami’s late game success was their ability to drive inside the paint with Pacers big man Roy Hibbert on the bench.

Hibbert wasn’t on the bench in overtime because he was fouled out or injured. Instead, it was a decision by the coach to keep Hibbert on the bench that likely cost the Pacers the game.

Because of that, it should come as no surprise that Pacers head coach Frank Vogel was asked about his coaching decisions after the game. Vogel took the time to explain his decision and stated that the lineup Miami had on court dictated the decision to place their 7-foot-2 center on the bench.

“That’s the dilemma they present when they have Chris Bosh at the five spot and his ability to space the floor,” Vogel said. “We put a switching lineup in with the intent to switch, keep everything in front of us and try to go into or force a challenged jumpshot. We pushed up a little bit too much, LeBron was able to beat us off the bounce.

“They’re hurting us on the small pick‑and‑rolls where we’re trying to blitz and get back,. So you have a couple of alternatives. The intent is to try to switch and just, you know, hope that a point guard can keep him in front of us, and both situations we just pushed up on him a little bit too much, and he was able to beat us off the bounce.”

That was a nice excuse for Vogel, but it doesn’t change the fact that he decided to bench his best interior defensive presence during the most crucial time of the game. As you would expect, Vogel had an explanation for that as well.

“We expected [Chris Bosh] to be a spacing option,” Vogel said. “If Roy were in the game, he probably would have been first or second option, if it didn’t come to LeBron, if LeBron could one‑bounce, draw Roy to the rim and have Bosh spot it up.

“So it’s the dilemma that they present. Obviously, with the way it worked out, you know, it would have been better to have Roy in the game.  But you don’t know.  If that happens, maybe Bosh is making the jumpshot, and we’re all talking about that.”

Bottom line: It was a crucial mistake.

Indiana needed to have someone in the game to stop Miami from driving from the hoop and getting an easy bucket. Instead, the Pacers let LeBron drive to the hoop and score an easy game-winner to take the early series lead.

As for Vogel, he learned from his mistakes. Don’t expect to see Hibbert on the sideline in crucial situations again.

“We’ll have to evaluate and see what we’ll do the next time,” Vogel said. “I would say we’ll probably have him in next time.”

Topics: Indiana Pacers, Roy Hibbert

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