Purposely exempt from the last post on the Pacers zone offense was David West’s frustration with his coach’s decision to play small ball. The Kings had gone to a front line of Jason Thompson, Francisco Garcia and Travis Outlaw (along with Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans), and the zone those five were played had nearly erased the Pacers lead. The result was Frank Vogel sending George Hill in for a struggling Roy Hibbert after the big fella picked up his fifth foul with 5:30 to go in the game. The Pacers once-16-point lead was down to four with Indiana up 84-80.
For the rest of the game, the Pacers played with Darren Collison, Hill, Paul George and Danny Granger on the floor together. Vogel would send Hibbert back in — with 2:19 left, his team’s lead down to just one point and the Kings shooting two free throws — but it wasn’t for a perimeter player. Roy relieved West, leaving the team with still just one big man on the floor.
In the previous post, I didn’t get into out West’s take on the matter, which Mike Wells of the Indy Star touched on, because (a) I’m not sure he is correct here since Hibbert was playing like garbage and I didn’t want the views of someone much smarter than me about basketball to supersede my point that Roy was playing poorly against the zone, and (b) this coming account by Sam Amick is seemingly out-of-character for West and deserves being fully highlighted on its own since he’s questioning his coach.
I’m sure you don’t care about my editorial choices, however, so let’s get to the point: here’s what West had to say about it to Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated after the game.
How bad was the Pacers’ mood both during and after they melted down in a 92-88 loss at Sacramento on Wednesday? One of the team’s consummate pros, David West, acted more like a pro wrestler.
When coach Frank Vogel opted to match the small-ball approach of new Kings coach/Don Nelson prodigy Keith Smart late in a fourth quarter in which the Pacers were outscored 26-8, a helpless and frustrated West unleashed a right cross on his folding chair while repeatedly yelling, “I knew it!” He was exasperated through each and every late possession while sitting the final four minutes, watching the Kings’ zone stifle the Pacers one minute and covering his eyes with his towel while shaking his head the next.
What he “knew,” he would later contend, is that things would have turned out differently if the big men were allowed to finish the game.
“It was kind of a last-ditch effort to junk the game up, and we [played] right into their hands,” West said.
And somewhere in retirement, Nelson — the godfather of small ball whose 2006-07 Warriors famously upset top-seeded Dallas in the first round with that style — was smiling. The Pacers were nothing short of shocked, with players trying to make sense of why and how it all happened among each other in the locker room afterward.
“We had some lineups we’re not used to playing with, and that cost us some buckets on the offensive end,” said West, who signed a two-year, $20 million deal before the season. “They were comfortable and knew what they were doing with their lineups and they were able to close the game. … Late in the game you always want to be on the floor and feel like you can help.”
West is wiser than most, and the level of his frustration was clearly based on the big picture. While the Pacers are still off to a great start at 9-4, seven of their next nine games are on the road and include matchups against the Lakers, Bulls, Magic (twice), Celtics and Mavericks.
Last year, the Pacer players post-game comments were always dripping with veiled disdain for Jim O’Brien’s personnel choices. This came as no shock. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to anything O’Brien was doing, and it appeared as though he was just mixing and matching player combinations at random. If anything, some of his playing-time decisions looked to be based on little more than “screw that guy.”
So far, there has been nothing (that I can recall) but the opposite expressed for Vogel. And that makes this is a particularly interesting public take from West, who is — unmaliciously but certainly — questioning the lineups that his coach chose to close this game out with.