Hibbert’s career night helps Pacers past Magic
Hibbert added eight rebounds, four blocks and three assists for the Pacers (11-23), who have won two of three after losing eight straight. Howard played with foul trouble most of the night and finished with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
“He was on fire tonight,” Howard said. “He was hitting shots and I’m like, ‘Is this the Roy that I know?’ He had an unbelievable game. I’m proud to see him mature into the player he is today.”
Hibbert’s teammates have been impressed with his development, too. The second-year pro from Georgetown scored his previous career-high of 25 against Memphis on Dec. 30. He’s averaging 10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds this season.
“I think he’s more aggressive, he wants the ball in clutch possessions,” said Pacers guard Brandon Rush(notes), who added 12 points and seven rebounds. “He’s playing amazing right now and I don’t think anybody can stop him. He outplayed Dwight Howard, one of the best players in the league.”
Hibbert’s massive frame—he bulked up from last year and weighs 278 pounds — could be intimidating to opponents. But his teammates have seen a different side of the gentle giant.
“Off the court, he’s just goofy,” Rush said. “I would think everybody would take him serious, but he’s not serious at all.”
Hibbert shied away from complimenting himself, instead pointing to a much-needed victory for the struggling Pacers, who were embarrassed by New York, 132-89, on Sunday.
“There’s no excuses for the last game, we didn’t play well,” he said. “We had to get this win tonight because we needed it. They’re one of the better teams in the league, but we can’t stay content. We have to keep moving and going.”
Orlando will try to bounce back from consecutive losses to Chicago and Indiana. Mickael Pietrus(notes) and Jameer Nelson(notes) each scored 16 for the Magic, who shot 38 percent from the field and committed 20 turnovers.
“Look, we’re just playing terrible, we really are,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Offensively, it’s just really bad right now. We can’t score, we can not score. I need to look at everything, playing different guys, I don’t know. It’s just not working in the least.”
The Pacers led 68-62 entering the fourth quarter and used an 8-0 run, capped by Hibbert’s 21-foot jumper, to extend their lead to 88-76 with 5 minutes left. Hibbert’s jumper over Howard to beat the shot clock a minute later helped seal the win.
“He was making some clutch shots for us,” Rush said. “With time winding down, he made about two or three of those.”
Indiana, which shot 40 percent from the field and capitalized off 12 Orlando turnovers in the first half, took its biggest lead, 45-35, on Jones’ free throw late in the second quarter. Howard played less than nine minutes in the first half and scored just two points.
“It definitely hurt, especially early in the game,” Van Gundy said of Howard’s foul trouble. “It just precludes us getting off to a great start.”
The Magic tied the score at 60 late in the third quarter, but the Pacers finished the period on an 8-2 run.
NOTES: Pacers All-Star swingman Danny Granger(notes) missed his 16th straight game with a torn right plantar fascia. Granger was expected to 4-6 weeks. … Pacers F Troy Murphy(notes) (left ankle), F Tyler Hansbrough(notes) (ear infection) and C Jeff Foster(notes) (sore lower back) did not play. … Orlando G Anthony Johnson(notes) played for the Pacers from 2003-06. … Indianapolis Colts players Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis were in attendance. The Colts, who dropped their final two games of the regular season after starting 14-0, have a first-round playoff bye.