It was a slippery slope in the month of March, and with the turn to April, the Indiana Pacers were expected to show some signs of improvement. Well, it looked like they were getting there to start off the month with a 101-94 win over the Detroit Pistons, but Indiana followed up that win with a 102-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors. The loss wasn’t too heartbreaking, as Toronto is the third seed in the Eastern conference and has been playing really well as of late, but what happened Sunday night was scary for the Pacers’ organization and its fans.
Indiana got beat in all aspects of the game against the Atlanta Hawks, and the 107-88 final score doesn’t do justice to how bad the Pacers really played. Indiana only mustered up 23 points in the first half and head coach Frank Vogel benched center Roy Hibbert after an 0-5 outing in only nine minutes. The benching of Hibbert was pretty surprising, and it was also odd that the 7-foot-2 big man didn’t rejoin his team in the second half until 90 seconds in. Some might assume Hibbert was benched for poor play, but it seems he was benched for rest.
Hibbert wasn’t the only one who could have used rest Sunday night, either. The energy ball that is Lance Stephenson only had three points on 1-of-6 shooting. When your source of hype and energy on the court is playing like that, you can’t expect much energy from anyone else. Paul George has noticeably been in a shooting slump the last month, but his 6-of-17 shooting isn’t helping anyone, and George Hill‘s 3-of-10 shooting just stings that much more. Indiana’s lack of energy really showed on the defensive end as Atlanta shot 56 percent and scored 107 points, and those numbers are extremely uncharacteristic for one of the league’s top defenses.
Vogel should rest Hibbert, George, and David West Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. Even when they’re struggling, Milwaukee is inferior to Indiana and resting those key starters who have played every single game this season. Resting and preparing for a big game vs. the Miami Heat on Friday could help them turn things around. The wear from playing the entire season has had an obvious impact on their game. Having virtually the whole week off could really help them mentally and physically prepare for the Heat game and the playoffs. Although those three players especially hate missing games, they need to realize that rest will help boost their energy.
Hopefully Vogel realizes rest is the key to turning things around and revving up for the playoffs, otherwise things will probably get even sloppier in the coming weeks.