Tonight, the Indiana Pacers face the worst team in the NBA. The Milwaukee Bucks have only won 14 games all season long.
They are worse than the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that just lost 26 straight games. The Pacers could reclaim the number one seed in the East with a win tonight.
How absurd is that?
The collapsing Pacers could be back on top of the Heat in just a few hours. That probably tells you just how terrible the Eastern Conference is this season, and how little Miami cares about the regular season.
The only thing standing in the way of reclaiming the team’s preseason goal, winning the No. 1 seed, is the coaching plan for tonight’s game. Coach Frank Vogel has stated that he will start resting the starter in some fashion over the last four games.
The idea is that this will get the players re-energized and focused heading into the playoffs. This was also his excuse for benching Roy Hibbert against the Atlanta Hawks. To Vogel’s credit, Hibbert did look tired and clearly hasn’t been giving his best effort over the past month.
Vogel has already given the starters the past two days off from practice. He hasn’t stated who’s going to play tonight or for how long.
Before the Heat lost to the Nets last night, Vogel was adamant that the No. 1 seed was no longer a priority.
“No,” Vogel said. “We’re two games back right now. Obviously it was a goal, it is a goal of ours, but at this point, playing well is our top priority. Part of that is being fresh going into the playoffs.
“We feel good if we have the No. 2 seed, and we still feel we can attain the goals we have.”
Frankly, that is a giant load of you know what.
This team has been preaching the importance of the top seed all season long, and their road record (19-19) reflects how much they need home court advantage. They are giving up on their goals to take the rest of the regular season off.
Both Paul George and David West have cosigned on Vogel’s plan, believing that the starting five could benefit from some extra rest down the stretch. The Pacers have had their butts kicked for over a month now.
The Pacers had 18 games in March, 11 of which were on the road. That has to wear down any player, especially those with such lofty goals. The Pacers starters have also played more minutes than any other starting five in the league. Maybe Vogel should have rested them sooner, or lengthened the rotation.
It begs the question, why were the starters still in the game against Atlanta Sunday late in the fourth quarter?
Why does one of the youngest teams in the NBA need extra time off? George Hill and Hibbert are both 27, George and Stephenson are just 23. Only West has a legitimate need for rest at 33.
It feels like the Pacers are grasping for excuses to explain their awful play over the past month. “Oh, the issue is partly fatigue…” Right, sure it is.
You’ve tried benching the starters. You’ve shaken up the rotations. You’ve told everyone to stop talking to the media about in house issues. None of it worked.
Hm, they must be tired. Let’s give up on everything we’ve worked so hard to attain and get a nap in before the playoffs start.
Does that really make any sense? Does that sound like something the Pacers should do?
This isn’t the NFL. I doubt even Bill Polian would rest his starters at this point.
When Indy fans hear that starters are being rested, its hard not to associate it with being bounced in the first round of the playoffs. There is something to be said about all the minutes this team has played, but with everything they have wanted all season long so close, can they really just give up?
With the Pacers just a half game behind the Heat, there is no reason to stop pushing for that top spot in the East. Both teams have a game tonight before the showdown Friday in Miami.
Even if the bench plays extended minutes, they should still beat the Bucks tonight. Maybe that will give them enough of an edge to sneak past the Heat on Friday. Maybe.