For many, picking a winner in the second round series between the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers came down to which version of Roy Hibbert showed up.
That's because the mountain of a man makes for major league impediment for those who wish to enter the lane. His defensive presence helped hold the Wizards to their two lowest scoring games of the regular season. Factor in some points and rebounds and we're talking an All-Star.
It doesn't take an NBA savant to know that version didn't show up even for a minute in the Wizards 102-96 Game 1 victory. Zero points, zero rebounds and five fouls in 18 minutes. His minus-17 was the worst plus-minus for any player in the game.
Bad enough Hibbert produced a Blutarsky-esque zero-zero, but his counterpart, Marcin Gortat went for 12 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Backup center Drew Gooden surprised with 12 and 13.
Washington outrebounded Indiana 53-36. During the regular season, the Pacers averaged 52.7 rebounds in three games versus the Wizards compared to Washington's 40.3.
That rebounding disparity doesn't completely fall on Hibbert, but zero is zero. He became the first playoff starter since 1992 to have zero points, zero rebounds and at least five fouls (per @espnstatsinfo)
Asked postgame if he were surprised by his center's latest lacking statistical line, Indiana coach Frank Vogel responded, "I'm always surprised when our guys don't play well. So, yes."
The thing is this isn't a one-off scenario. Calling a Hibbert a zero isn't hyperbole, but simply factual. He hasn't scored a point in three of his last four games. Heck, this wasn't even his first zero-zero in that span, which includes the first round series against Atlanta.
Hibbert played 7:38 off the first quarter, missing his lone field attempt with a block and turnover. When he sat, Indiana trailed 16-7. When he returned with 8:30 left in the second quarter, the teams were tied at 30-30.
This stint didn't last long as Hibbert picked up not one, not two, but three fouls in an 87-second span, exiting the half for good with 6:35 remaining. Bradley Beal attacking the lane led to Hibbert's third foul. His two free throws put Washington up 39-33 and the Wizards led 56-43 at halftime.
More of the same took place in the second half. Hibbert played eight minutes and had one of his two blocks. The Wizards outrebounded the Pacers 28-16 in the second half.
Indiana ultimately got by without much from its starting center against eighth-seeded Atlanta in round one. Outside of Paul Millsap, the Hawks lacked any real interior presence. The Wizards have Nene, Gortat, Trevor Booker and North Bethesda's own Drew Gooden. In other words, this is the wrong matchup to have a donut situation at center. The thing is this matchup with Washington figured to play more to Hibbert's strengths because rather than chase Atlanta's bigs on the perimeter he could hang inside versus Gortat and Nene. Oops.
How long can Vogel go with Hibbert becomes the question. Ian Mahinmi offers size and effort, but little else. The gritty Luis Scola can score and bang, but doesn't have the size to keep Gortat away from the basket for long. The wild card entrant might be Danny Copeland, whose perimeter shooting could force the Wizards to go smaller.
One game into the series and it appears clear the Pacers can't go big.
Legendary NFL coach Bill Parcells once said, "You are what your record says you are." Right now Hibbert's stat line says he's a zero. History, even data from this season says that's not true. How much longer can Vogel wait to see if Hibbert's good history will repeat itself?
Seeing as the Wizards already took Game 1 in Indiana, the clock may have already struck midnight.