This is a guest post by Aaron Dougherty. Aaron is avid sports fan that resides in the Raleigh, NC area. He has a degree in Sport Management from North Greenville University and enjoys writing about, reading, and watching sports in his spare time.
There is 5:05 left on the clock in the 4th quarter of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinal Game 6 between the Indiana Pacers and the New York Knicks. The Knicks are leading the game 92-90 when their superstar is in flight with the game at hand. If the Pacers lose Game 6 on their home court, it is highly unlikely they walk out of Madison Square Garden with a win in New York in a Series Final Game 7. Make no mistake about it…whatever transpires at this moment in time will be a series altering and series defining play. Let’s backtrack just a bit.
The Pacers are living life comfortably when a barrage of Knick three pointers (particularly from Iman Shumpert) begin to rain down within a span of 100 seconds in the third quarter erasing what is a 12 point Pacer lead. The momentum changes and everyone who is sitting in Conseco Fieldhouse feels the ground beneath them shift. Pacers guard Lance Stephenson scores on an aggressive drive to the basket to tie the game at 81 as the third quarter ends. But things remain shaky at best for the home team.
The game continues in a state of flux until the sound goes off. The sound is of Pacers Center Roy Hibbert vehemently denying Carmelo Anthony’s dunk attempt at the rim with 5:05 left to play. Not only is this a series defining block for the Pacers. This is a career defining moment for Roy Hibbert. At the same time, this is another hit to Carmelo’s career reputation as a player who does not deliver in the postseason. Hibbert and Melo are polar opposites when it comes to contrasting their styles of play. Melo is known for his offense and individual play. Hibbert is known for his defense and team play. During the playoffs, Hibbert upped his play from the regular season by averaging 14 points and 10 boards. That is 2 points and 2 boards above his season average in each category. That might not sound like a lot, but in the playoffs, every stat counts. The greats always step it up in the postseason. By comparison, Carmelo averaged roughly the same for the series as he averaged in the regular season. Pacers All-star forward Paul George and Lance Stephenson had their moments but Hibbert was without question the Series MVP. In one block, Hibbert had a coming out party and the nation took notice.
Back to the game…Hibbert blocks Melo and the Pacers go on a 9-0 run over the next 3 minutes to seal the deal and move on to face the Miami Heat in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. That’s called big boy basketball! Hibbert strapped up his boots and went to work when his team needed him most. Melo folded in the heat of playoff battle once again. Melo the superstar seemed to care more about the game itself and getting his teammates involved than in years past, however he still could not move his second seeded team past the second round. One could make excuses such as “Melo had to play with a banged up shoulder” or “JR Smith couldn’t throw a ball in the ocean” but at the end of the day, the greats play through the pain and find a way to help their team advance. Hibbert is by no means one of the all time NBA greats but on this day, he was great enough to get past Melo.
Carmelo is still a phenom when it comes to discussing NBA talent but he is not the prime choice to lead a team. Hibbert is a great team player whose leadership skills prove that the best talent on the floor does not always take the cake. There is a huge difference that exists in styles of play both at the individual and collective levels between good players and the greats. This difference could not have been seen more clearly than in Hibbert’s series clinching block against Melo’s attempted dunk. It was much more than a highlight block. It was a message to the Knicks team and to the Knicks leader of what it takes to advance to the NBA Conference Finals.
Things could have turned out differently. Melo could have come crashing down in thunderous fashion with a dunk over Hibbert and the Knicks would have gone on to win Game 6 and 7. But at one moment in time, the earth stood still as two hands collided in mid-air above the rim with a basketball suspended halfway in between. And the rest is history.
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