NBA 2013-14: Indiana Pacers get huge confidence boost as Frank Vogel’s decision pays off
The Indiana Pacers looked revived, rejuvenated in practice on Thursday in Miami after the team’s second unit snatched a 104-102 win in Milwaukee a day earlier without any of the starters playing even a single minute. In what seemed to be their best practice in weeks, the Pacers were fresh, lively and at the same time focused for their showdown with the 2-time defending champions on Friday.
With a 10-12 record since March and a six game road losing streak, Frank Vogel decided to take the controversial decision of resting all the starters against the Bucks, which could have seen some serious criticism coming his way. However, with Chris Copeland’s game winner on Wednesday, the Pacers look to turn a new leaf heading into the Playoffs and return to their winning ways.
With the reserves’ performance it was quite obvious that there was a lot more to this win than just much needed rest for the starters that could presently aid the Pacers, and later in the post-season in their quest for a showdown with the Miami Heat.
Post the All-Star break, the Pacers have been anything but their dominant self, but this win brings very encouraging news to Indiana fans.
Dependable second unit
Although the match-up was against bottom side Milwaukee Bucks, the reserves were engaged in a tense battle that went on right till the final horn. Head Coach Vogel could have easily just plugged in one of the starters in the closing minutes to seal the deal, but he stuck with his second unit, and they answered his call with the win.
To grab the win in a close match shows the Pacers have covered up their major area of concern from last year’s contest against the Heat. There was more than one encouraging individual performance in the match.
Evan Turner came close to recording his first career triple-double as a Pacer with 23 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists, while Luis Scola was a rebound short of registering a double-double with 24 points. Copeland had a very impactful performance in his 17 minutes scoring 18 points on 7/8 shooting from the field, and 4/5 from beyond the arc. Sloan had an impressive 8 points and 8 assists outing on the starters’ day off.
Starters inspired by the bench
The reserves knocked some sense back into the starters with their play on both ends of the court and forward Paul George seemed to agree.
“They played defense the right way. They were defending, helping one another. Offensively, they kept the game simple and just made plays for one another.”
For a team facing problems holding on to the orange at the business end of the season, the bench showed the first five how it’s done by dishing out 26 assists with only 11 turnovers. Barring a few sloppy plays, like Ian Mahinmi fouling Kris Middleton on a three point attempt with 4.9 seconds left, the bench played the level of defense the league has associated the Pacers with and shared the ball like they had early on in the season which brought great success.
Chemistry and top seeding back
Vogel’s decision could be saluted and applauded if the Pacers are able to win the contest in South Beach and seal the top spot for the entirety of the Eastern Conference playoff run with a lead of 1.5 games. This win sets it up perfectly for the Pacers to win against the Heat as the rested Pacers’ starters will play against a roster which is having to pay more attention to battling injuries than opponents.
The entire season the players have talked about wanting to hold the home court advantage in the Playoffs, but their aspirations for the top seeding had taken the best out of their starters. Their chemistry was questioned, Paul George failed to keep his play at the level that it was at the beginning of the season, and their struggling offense started to show cracks while the same happened to their league-leading defense.
Backed by Larry Bird, President of Basketball Operations, to rest the starters, Vogel’s decision seems to have reaped huge benefits with the rested Pacers heading into the battle with the Heat half a game ahead.
Also the issues regarding chemistry have been dismissed by Paul George despite comments in March about selfish play by center Roy Hibbert.
“We’ve still got the same chemistry, nothing’s been broken.”
So if George is to be believed, the Pacers certainly will have the upper hand on Friday, with numerous reports coming in on the effects of the rest on the starters in practice.
Team unity also seems to have reached a new high with the reserves’ performance, thus it would be quite safe to say that we can expect the Indiana Pacers of the early part of the season to re-emerge as we begin the the countdown to the post-season.