Roy Hibbert, Tim Duncan

What’s wrong with Roy Hibbert?

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Last night in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert played just 20 minutes. He grabbed one rebound, didn’t score a single point, and according to Pacers beat writer Mike Wells, he declined postgame comment for the first time in his five-year career.

Pacers head coach Frank Vogel simply said this about Hibbert: “He didn’t have it tonight.”

Problem is, Hibbert hasn’t had it on most nights this year. With Danny Granger sidelined and the Pacers desperately in need of production on the offensive end, Hibbert has shot a woeful 39 percent from the field and averaged just 9.5 points per game this season.

Lest you’ve forgotten, Hibbert is 7-foot-2 and was hotly pursued by multiple teams before Indiana signed him to a max contract this offseason. To say his offensive production  so far this year isn’t befitting of a max player is a gross understatement — it hasn’t even been remotely average.

Hibbert is shooting just 47 percent directly at the rim this season, missing more than he makes from point blank range. The NBA average at the rim? Right around 63 percent. Even worse, if you subtract Hibbert’s dunks (20-for-23) from that total, he’s shooting 37% at the rim. That’s beyond awful for any center, let alone one that towers over most players inside.

So what’s the deal? Is this just a 30-game anomaly? Or is it something else?

One theory is that Hibbert’s struggles could very well be attributed to a lingering wrist injury that dates back to last season. Tim Donahue of the always excellent Pacers blog “8 points 9 seconds” took a very detailed look at how the weakness in Hibbert’s wrist has affected his hook shot. That’s one of Hibbert’s pet moves, and without it, he’s not the same player.

It also seems very well possible that Hibbert’s weakness in his wrist is influencing his confidence more than anything else. Hibbert is attempting more tip shots than ever before, which perhaps indicates his reluctance to come down with the ball for an actual attempt, or worse yet, go to the free throw line where he’s shooting a career low 63 percent.

Hibbert’s comments to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports earlier in the month seem to support that:

“Physically everything is there,” Hibbert said. “I just got to get over some stuff. It’s more mental with me than anything. I’m getting to the [floor] spots I want to get to, but the shots aren’t dropping that usually drop.”

Hibbert has been seeing a sports psychologist since 2008, and he says that it’s been working. Unfortunately, that hasn’t translated to the floor quite yet. Although he’s played very well defensively, Hibbert has scored less than 8 points in six of his last nine games, and his limited minutes in a close game last night speak volumes. Slumps for big men just don’t last this long, and it’s unclear what has to change for Hibbert to snap out of it.

That’s the tricky part about injuries. The physical recovery can be reasonably predicted and everything can heal and feel fine, but the mental recovery often isn’t as simple.

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.

Cavaliers retake series lead at home with rout of Raptors

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket in the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Eastern Conference Finals have been all about the comforts of home. Through five games between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, the home team has come out on top convincingly every time. Wednesday’s Game 5 was no different, with the Cavs destroying the Raptors, 116-78 to take a 3-2 series lead.

After a pair of awful games in Toronto, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving stepped up at home to score 25 and 23 points, respectively, to go along with 23 from LeBron James. The big production from their stars was enough to keep the Raptors at bay — the only other Cavs player to score in double figures was Richard Jefferson, who had 11 points, but it didn’t matter.

On the other side, after coming up huge at home in Games 3 and 4, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to shoot 7-for-20 from the field Wednesday, and nobody else did much to pick up the slack. After not trailing by 30 at a half at any point this season, Toronto trailed by 31 at halftime, and the lead ballooned to 100-60 at the end of the third quarter. From the beginning, this game was one-sided.

The Cavs can close out the series on the road on Friday, ensuring James’ sixth straight trip to the Finals. But the Raptors have been a different team at home during this series, and in a do-or-die situation they should come out with more fight. It’s hard to imagine things going much worse than they did Wednesday.

Report: Joakim Noah having “positive dialogue” with Bulls about future

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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And the spin keeps on happening.

First came the report that Joakim Noah was telling teammates he was out of Chicago. Followed by Noah’s agent — the person charged with keeping Noah’s options open — saying that was not true.

Now comes team management — the people who said they want to keep Noah with the Bulls — saying the sides are still talking, and they want him to stay. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Veteran Bulls center Joakim Noah, his representatives and the Chicago front office continue to have a “positive dialogue” about a new contract amid a report that Noah has been telling teammates he’s ready to leave the franchise, a league source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Those close to Noah, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, are still hopeful that he will be able to work out an agreement to stay in Chicago long term.

I’m going to let you in on a real insider bit of knowledge on what team Noah will play for next season:

Whatever team pays him the most money.

I know, it’s crazy, but sometimes people make a decision about where to work based on pay. Right now, everything is posturing. Come July 1, money will go on the table, and then Noah will know just how badly the Bulls want to keep him vs. other teams wanting to bring him in. Once the money is out there, if things are roughly even, then minutes and role on the team, lifestyle, weather and all the rest come into play.

But Puffy had it right — it’s all about the Benjamins.