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Pacers’ coach Vogel explains decision to bench Hibbert late, says ‘we’ll probably have him in next time’

May 23, 2013, 1:49 AM EDT

Roy Hibbert

The Heat came away with the 103-102 overtime victory over the Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, thanks to a triple-double performance from LeBron James, which included hitting the game-winning layup as time expired.

The words “game-winning layup” should never be a relevant phrase this deep into the postseason; teams normally defend the rim at all costs, especially in late-game situations. But Pacers head coach Frank Vogel made a curious decision not to do so, and it may have been among the main reasons that his team was unable to prevent James from scoring so easily on that final possession.

Vogel made a decision not once, but twice near the end of overtime to bench his biggest and best interior defender in Roy Hibbert to match up with the Heat’s smaller lineup.

With just over 10 seconds remaining, James was able to get a switch on a screen, trading Paul George for George Hill defensively. Against the smaller defender, James was able to blow by him and get to the rim for an uncontested layup.

In that situation, with still a couple of possessions remaining in the game and with Hibbert saddled with five fouls, maybe Vogel’s decision is a bit more understandable. But after seeing the disastrous results, it’s tough to justify making the same mistake twice, and doing so on the game’s final possession.

George had hit three free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining after being fouled on a three-point attempt from Dwyane Wade, which gave the Pacers a one-point lead. Once again, Vogel had Hibbert placed firmly on the bench, and as soon as James received the inbounds pass, he sprinted past George to his left to get the uncontested shot at the rim to go as time expired.

Vogel was asked about his decision as soon as his postgame press conference began, and said that the lineup the Heat had on the floor dictated his response.

“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.”

It’s true that George was out of position defensively, and that was the reason James was able to have such a wide open lane to the basket. But with Hibbert there, it’s possible James might have had his shot altered (or, at the very least, contested), and he may have even been forced to get the ball to someone else.

Vogel explained in further detail what he was trying to accomplish.

“They’re hurting us on the small pick‑and‑rolls where we’re trying to blitz and get back,” he said. “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.”

But still — why no Hibbert?

“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.”

Maybe. But any way you look at it, a wide-open jumpshot is a far lower percentage play than an uncontested shot at the rim will ever be. Which is why if Vogel gets another chance, he’s likely to change his philosophy.

“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.”

  1. hertzy23 - May 23, 2013 at 1:57 AM

    Paul George is far more to blame than Vogel. Whether or not Hibbert is in, LB still gets that drive for a layup for either him or Bosh.

  2. daddyghi - May 23, 2013 at 2:04 AM

    the game is a chess match… just so happen that vogel made the wrong move… can’t blame the guy… if lebron missed the shot, then Vogel should be having all praise by now…

  3. dgbk - May 23, 2013 at 2:07 AM

    I much rather bosh beat me than james… u don’t game plan for option two, three, four or five…you stop number one at all cost… ofcourse sometime option five is steve kerr or robert horry but so be it… hibbert should be on the court at all times to defend or rebound in crunch time.

  4. miamatt - May 23, 2013 at 3:08 AM

    As a Heat fan I felt at the time that Vogel was like a matador, pulling the red cape away and shouting, “Ole’!

  5. jcabeen - May 23, 2013 at 4:47 AM

    Frank Vogel is a BUFOON and should have been fired the moment the final buzzer sounded. He ripped the heart out of his own team and stole any real chance they had of going to the NBA Finals. In 45 years on earth I have never seen a more boneheaded, inexcusable move than to keep a 7’2, athletic, defensive stopper on the bench. Not even God could give me a plausible explanation for Vogel’s decision. He is really should have been fired. It was that egregious an error.

    • Kurt Helin - May 25, 2013 at 2:38 AM

      That’s not an overreaction.

  6. cantonbound13 - May 23, 2013 at 6:35 AM

    Why would anyone take Hibbert out at that time?

    • gmsingh - May 23, 2013 at 8:31 AM

      Vogel got the call from David Stern?

      • miamatt - May 23, 2013 at 10:39 AM

        Right after Stern demanded a foul call on George’s limp 3-point attempt? Got it.

      • gmsingh - May 25, 2013 at 9:13 AM

        That’s the thing–the Pacers can lose without any coercion or fake foul calling. But we’ll never know.

    • pglive21 - May 23, 2013 at 10:15 AM

      As a Pacers fan, I was furious that Vogel took out Hibbert on Lebron’s earlier score on G. Hill, because we needed rim protection on a play that could have taken longer to develop with more time for rotations to occur. On the last possession though Hibbert should not have been in the game. Vogel made the right call but it was poor execution. Hibbert would not have been able to keep up with the switches. George overplayed the inbounds pass and Lebron drove. If George just contained it would have been a Lebron jumper. I’d rather have a Lebron jumper, contested by George, than an open Bosh jumper. George knows he overplayed it, Vogel knows too, but he’s not going to say it and throw his 3rd year player under the bus.

  7. dgilet1 - May 23, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    My problem with the decision is he did it at the end of the 4th also with the same result. I believe it was end of the 4th

  8. jbeagles23 - May 23, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    I think Hibbert is a great rim protector. However the heats game plan all second half was to drive t right at him because he over commits and his man gets a lay up anyways

    • hehateme2 - May 23, 2013 at 9:18 AM

      That’s looks like the best the pacers have to offer. Expect HEAT blowouts in the next several games.

      • ProBasketballPundit - May 23, 2013 at 10:01 AM

        Are you from Charlotte? Your username seems like a Rod Smart reference. Anyway it’s ludicrous to think the HEAT will blow Indiana out of several games. Chalmers might miss some time with that shoulder bruise and the Heat won game 1 by a single point while Birdman had a season best scoring output. I expect the Pacers to keep every game competitive with that defense.

      • stlouis1baseball - May 23, 2013 at 1:37 PM

        Yeah…cause’ your freak is gonna’ go 7-7 the next game to huh?
        Go ahead and hang your hat on that and I will smile when the Pacers win it in 6.

  9. heat256 - May 23, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    That’s coaching: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Funny how it’s the coach that gets the blame for everything, and not so much the players who are defending the guys. If james misses the shot or George blocks it, Vogel’s a genius for countering the small ball Spo uses. But when they lose, Vogel’s in the wrong.

  10. indyshepherd - May 23, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    “Coach Vogel brought Tyler Hansbrough in the game to defend Chris Bosh instead of putting Hibbert on James, because of Bosh’s ability to shoot from the perimeter….”

    Really? Was Chris Bosh really going to be an option in the last 2.5 seconds? The ball was either going to LeBron or Lebron or maybe even LeBron James.

    I guess no one on the team watched the final seconds of the Illinois-Indiana game back on Feb 7th?

    • pglive21 - May 23, 2013 at 10:17 AM

      You actually think Bosh wouldn’t have been an option? If Hibbert was trying to keep up with him there’s no way he would have and Bosh would have had an open jumper. If George had only not overplayed the inbounds pass it would have been a contested LeBron jumper instead of an open Bosh one. Miami absolutely would have gone to him if he was open (and if Hibbert were on him, he would have been).

    • miamatt - May 23, 2013 at 10:43 AM

      I agree that Hibbert should have been in the game, and get the big ten reference.

      But if memory serves Bosh actually has the best shooting percentage of any Heatian in the clutch this season. He has most definitely gotten the opportunity to take big shots for Miami, and James willingness to pass makes him that much harder to defend. Still, it is questionable whether or not LBJ would have had time to drive and dish so Bosh could get off a good sot.

  11. d10ballfan - May 23, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    His explanation still doesn’t make sense. With 2.5 seconds left the Heat would not have time to do a screen and roll to beat the blitzing Hibbert. Actually blitzing Hibbert on a screen and roll w/2.5 seconds left would be a good thing – they would have to shoot over him or one dribble around him and pull up rushing that shot w/little time.

    It’s almost like Vogel outsmarted himself. Put the big dude on the floor at the end of the game. Bad move and it may have cost them game 1.

  12. indyshepherd - May 23, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    Frank Vogel must be hangning out with Bill Polian a lot these days.

  13. maxout34 - May 23, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    Interesting. I hate to second guess Vogel here after such a great game to watch but, you must defend the RIM at all costs!

  14. jcmeyer10 - May 23, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    I thought part of the Pacers success stemmed from just doing them and not matching up.

    • stlouis1baseball - May 23, 2013 at 1:39 PM

      Yep. That’s my issue Meyer. The Pacers don’t NEED to play the match up game.
      I fully expect this sort of thing to be a non-issue the rest of the way. Pacers in 6.

  15. caeser12 - May 23, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    Frank Vogel had a Mike “Mr Magoo” Woodson moment. He forgot he was Coaching in the playoffs. I’m sure he won’t let it happen again. Indy may have hurt themselves by losing that game.

  16. nard100 - May 23, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    Hey Vogel, still think the Heat is just “next team” in your way. If so, you would have kept Hibbert in the game. With that choke, your slip is showing.

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