The Indiana Pacers scored a huge victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The win put the Pacers in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference, but that wasn’t the only good news.
The bench looked terrific. C.J. Watson, a player whose absence cost the Pacers’ dearly over the past month, was a spark plug off the pine. He scored 20 points off the bench and was very effective from three-point range. Add in the fact that Luis Scola was hitting his jump shots and Ian Mahinmi brought outstanding energy once again, and you have a lot of positives to take away from Sunday’s game.
The bench has played well over the last week, but the starting lineup, for the most part, continues to struggle. Lance Stephenson still makes too many silly mistakes. Paul George’s shooting woes are pressing on. But George Hill and Roy Hibbert are the main culprits of the starters’ mediocrity.
Hibbert was terrible offensively on Sunday. His 0-for-9 shooting debacle was hard to watch, and he has been held scoreless for two straight games. He did, however, play solid defense and pull down some rebounds (a department that he, inexplicably struggles in), so that is at least a start.
Hill continues to be a hesitant shooter. He is the Pacers’ most efficient scorer, but he rarely takes enough attempts to have a true impact on the game. In Sunday’s game, case in point, he took three shots and made one of them, finishing with three points.
If Hill and Hibbert continue to struggle mightily, coach Frank Vogel will have no choice but to unleash the bench. That would mean a substantial reduction in their minutes to accommodate Mahinmi and Watson’s increased playing time. When it is all said and done, however, Vogel will do what is best for the team, even if it means sitting two of his team’s highest paid players.