Saturday night in Las Vegas, Floyd Mayweather Jr. improved to 44-0 by unanimous decision over Robert Guerrero. Fighting for the first time in a year, Mayweather did to Guerrero what he has subjected every fighter to in his professional career: a slow, painful demolition.
The 36-year-old mixed his typical shoulder roll, head-on-a-swivel defensive brilliance with spurts of precision counterattack in the form of an absurdly accurate straight right hand — ‘Money May’ connected on 60 percent of his power shots according to CompuBox.
Watching the Pacers put a 102-95 Game 1 stranglehold on the Knicks Sunday, I couldn’t help but think I was watching a re-run, the mere difference being Mayweather’s masterpiece took place in a squared-off ring within a colossal casino, while Indiana’s 48-minute rope-a-dope of New York silenced Madison Square Garden, the self-titled ‘World’s Most Famous Arena.’
In a week, Indiana morphed from a team unable to win in less-than-daunting Phillips Arena to muzzling the owners of NBA.com’s third-best offensive rating during the regular season on its home floor.
“It’s a great feeling. Our job is to get a win,” Pacers’ point guard George Hill said to reporters postgame, speaking to Indiana’s road strategy in NYC. “If we can get two, then that’s great.”
The fulcrum of the Pacers’ Mayweatherian Game 1 defensive performance was center Roy Hibbert, the $58 million man. ABC analyst and former Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy termed the 7-2 Georgetown product the “Great Wall of Hibbert” in the latter stages of contest, summing up Hibbert’s way of luring New York’s rim-runners into the paint before stonewalling them at the basket by simply jumping straight up, not forward. Hibbert finished with five blocks and countless swallow-ups of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith.
Hibbert’s roadblock approach aided the blue and gold defense in forcing Anthony and Smith, the Knicks’ two leading scorers, into 14-of-43 shooting, including a 5-for-18 performance at the rim per NBA.com.
During the regular season, Indiana ranked first in the league in opponents’ field goal percentage and opponents’ 3-point percentage, and placed second in field goals and points allowed per game.
That elite defense wasn’t always present at the end of the regular season and in the opening round against the Hawks, but it showed up in the Garden.
But, there’s a caveat to all of this, and his name is Raymond Felton.