The Indiana Pacers are still searching for something right now with the 2014 NBA Playoffs just a little over a week away from getting underway. For a team that was once being touted as the favorites to win the title earlier this season, they haven’t looked anything like that team as of late.
There has been a good deal of finger-pointing going on amidst the Pacers’ struggles. Roy Hibbert talked about selfish play, there have been minor riffs between teammates, and a number of other things have been apparent. More than all of that, though, it’s Indiana’s bench that has been problematic for them over the second half of the regular season.
While the Pacers’ bench has ranked near the bottom of the league in scoring for much of the year, it’s been even worse as of late. Whenever the reserves have taken the floor, the offense looks stagnant and the energy with this team almost ceases to exist. That could have something to do with trying to integrate Evan Turner, but it could have a lot to do with the fact that C.J. Watson had been out for a little over a month with a hamstring injury.
As Indiana rested all of their starters on Wednesday night, Watson made his return for the Pacers coming off of the bench. In 17 minutes, Watson put up eight points, one assist, one rebound and two steals while shooting 3-5 from the floor and hitting both of his attempts from beyond-the-arc.
Watson’s presence is absolutely enormous for this Indiana team and them getting production from their bench. His 6.3 points, 1.7 assists and 0.9 steals per game that he’s averaging aren’t monstrous by any stretch, but he keeps the offense in-rhythm when he comes off the bench in relief. In fact, the lineup of Watson, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, Luis Scola and Roy Hibbert boasts an average of 126 points per 100 possessions, the best of any of their 20 most frequently used five-man lineups (per 82games.com).
With Watson returning to action and with the starters not sitting out for their next game, we will see just how much of an effect he can have on this team. He can’t do it alone and the rest of the reserves will need to step up, but Watson returning could be the missing piece that Indiana has been desperately looking for to try and get on the right track heading into the postseason.