It was the most anticipated matchup of the game, perhaps the sole reason that Greg Oden was signed by the Miami Heat - Oden squaring off against Pacers All-Star Roy Hibbert. Unfortunately, it was an underwhelming performance.
The first play of the game should have gone to Greg Oden in the block. I had hoped it would be because this matchup against Roy Hibbert was an opportunity for G.O. to further build his confidence and continue to develop into a legitimate threat this season, beyond his current role as a starter and contributor.
No play for Oden was called, Hibbert struck first and the tired Heat big man played the least amount of minutes in weeks. Here's how it all went down:
10:48 Hibbert scores his first points on a turn-around jump shot from about 10 feet out. He caught the ball a little too close to the rim but the shot was simply a good one that is hard to defend. Hibbert's ability to make these isn't reliable.
10:28 Oden boxed out by Hibbert on a missed long-range shot from Chris Bosh.
10:06 Oden was perfectly positioned to catch a rebound off the rim (Dwyane Wade miss) and dunked the put-back.
8:15 Lance Stephenson uses a David West screen to drive to the hope along the baseline. Oden gets a great fingertip-block on the shot. Hibbert, who wasn't boxed out, grabs the rebound near the rim and is fouled underneath the basket by Oden (his first foul of the game).
7:34 Hibbert tangles up Oden fairly obviously and Oden is called for his second foul. This is intentional on Hibbert's part - he's 15 feet away from the basket and is not really fighting for position. An exaggerated swing of the arms created the illusion of excess contact by Oden. It worked. Cameras capture Oden breathing heavily and early fatigue may be a factor.
7:26 George/Hibbert execute another pick-and-roll, this time with George dribbling towards his right and Hibbert cutting toward the left side of the basket. Oden stays on George again as does James (still the primary defender). Hibbert is left open and George makes a perfect behind-the-back pass; Hibbert completes the play, makes the shot and draws a foul on Chris Bosh who was late rotating. Hibbert hits the ensuing free throw (and now has 5 of Indiana's 10 points).
6:57 Hibbert catches the ball about 9-10 feet away from the rim and is isolated against Oden. Two quick dribbles with his back to the basket and Hibbert puts up an 8-foot, left-handed hook shot that goes in softly. Oden is probably too tired and allowed Hibbert easy positioning on the block.
6:15 West slips a screen and ends up with the ball about 5 feet from the hoop. He takes a rushed hook shot as Oden goes to challenge; the shot rims out.
5:57 By this point, Oden is being targeted by the Pacers as Hibbert is fed the ball on the right block. Hibbert faces Oden, dribbles to his right toward the basket, hooks Oden with his left arm and puts in a reverse layup with his right. Hibbert now has 9 of Indiana's 14 points (and the Heat are down 6) and Miami calls a quick timeout.
During the timeout, Oden was replaced by Chris Andersen in the lineup. At the start of the second half, Udonis Haslem replaced Oden in the lineup. Hibbert finished with 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 fouls. He attempted 9 free throws, connecting on 7. He missed all of his second-half field goal attempts.
Oden's final stat line: 6 minutes, 2 points (1-of-1 shooting), 1 rebound, 2 blocks and 2 fouls.
Clearly, while Oden has made progress thus far in the season, he still has room for improvement. Improving his conditioning seems to be the biggest priority and keeping opposing centers like Hibbert from establishing easy positioning (as Haslem did in the second half) is the next step.
An unfortunate setback for Greg but one that could provide a building block for additional growth. But will he get the chance? Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra has shown a willingness to change lineups all season and even in the middle of a playoff series. Oden will likely continue starting games during the regular season, even the rematch with Hibbert and the Pacers on April 11. For Spoelstra to "demote" Oden at this point in his comeback would be huge blow to him psychologically.
While it can be frustrating for fans and may result in performances like Wednesday's, when it comes to rebuilding, patience is still the key.