What happened in this game is largely irrelevant. It was a glorified exhibition that dozens of fans in Bankers Life Fieldhouse got to see their favorite team win. But I think it was an excellent penultimate game of the regular season for the Pacers both physically and psychologically.
The physical part is obvious: George Hill and Danny Granger were both a little banged up and they didn’t have to play while Roy Hibbert is a giant human being who got to rest (and certainly has some bumps and bruises of his own). In order to get out of the second round, Indiana will need to play four near-perfect games, and for this roster, that means high-level contributions from at least seven, if not more like nine, guys. So the better everyone’s body feels, the better chance — in theory — they have of making that happen.
The second part is psychological. And it’s probably more important.
Again, to exceed expectations, Indiana needs everyone to play well. And given their lack of superstar power, it will also help if everyone is of a similar “us agains the world” mentality. The most potentially delicate balance in that regard is the fact that the team just demoted its starting point guard. Frank Vogel needs that to be a decision Darren Collison can live with while still contributing. Hopefully, by keeping DC coming off the bench tonight, Vogel showed him that this move is less a demotion and more about optimizing the personnel and having a high-functioning second unit. That could help him truly believe, even if ever so slightly, that this is similar to the roles accepted by guys like Manu in San Antonio, Ray Allen in Boston, Jamal Crawford in Atlanta, Lamar Odom in Los Angeles. It’s just what is the best role for him to take as this team heads into the playoffs. (Although the team is really going to need him to play better in said role once the regular season ends. Yikes. He was ugly out there.)
Second, it’s great to get minutes for AJ Price, Jeff Pendergraph, Kyrylo Fesenko and Dahntay Jones, who himself was formally demoted out of the playoff rotation recently. These guys, with perhaps the exception of Jones, likely won’t have any significant on-court impact on the playoffs. But they are members of this team and will be there for all the shootarounds, plane trips and halftime speeches. So to whatever degree they can actually feel invested in the team’s upcoming postseason run, the better. A guy like Pendergraph likely feels like he is on the outside looking in so getting his first career start so close to the end of the regular season will likely make him feel more a part of the team’s success. The fact that they got run in a win only makes it more galvanizing.
Lastly, I think it will help David West and especially Paul George to get have gotten some live NBA minutes playing a role in which they were forced to be more aggressive. Each defers a little more than they probably should. So to play every minute of a game feeling like they not only have the green light but should actually force a few shots — not for selfish reasons but because it will help the team — can’t hurt either. I mean, when else has George gotten 15 free-throw attempts in a game before? Who knows if that mentality of “I”m actually better than most guys” will carry over when the team could benefit from an individual making a play in the second round. But, again, it is unlikely to have any detrimental effect.
So, sure, all this is coming from some idiot sitting at a desk playing armchair psychologist, which he knows is dumb. But it was a nice win earned in a way that could have some nice residual affects throughout the roster. Ultimately, I think Vogel was playing some chess here and came up with an excellent lineup that maybe, just maybe maximized the value his team got out of what was otherwise as meaningless a victory as is possible in this league.
|David West, PF 28 MIN | 9-19 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 20 PTS |
Took a lot of shots and now has 20+ points in his last 3 games. This from a guy who had only done so 5 times prior this season. He’s now averaging 15 ppg on 55% in April. Nice time to start getting your score on.
|Dahntay Jones, 23 MIN | 2-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS |
Ya know, just Dahntayin’ around out there. Played fine.
|Jeff Pendergraph, 18 MIN | 5-10 FG | 7 REB | 1 AST | 2 BLK | 10 PTS |
Possible Hall of Famer. Nice first career start for the kid.
|A.J. Price, G 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 2 PTS |
|Paul George, 6-15 FG | 13-15 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 3 STL | 27 PTS |
Beastly. Definitely the best preseason performance of his career.
|Leandro Barbosa, 4-11 FG | 4-5 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 4 STL | 13 PTS |
Sure did fill up that stat sheet. And nice for him to see the ball go through the hoop a few times, I reckon.
|Louis Amundson, 16 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-4 FT | 5 REB | 2 PTS |
Not so good.
|Tyler Hansbrough, 4-10 FG | 5-5 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS |
Played very well at times while his grandpappy Psycho Pop Pop watched courtside.
|Darren Collison, 31 MIN | 1-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 4 PTS |
|Kyrylo Fesenko, C 6 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS |
He’s a house.
|Lance Stephenson, 10 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS |
Nice to see him out there again. I suppose.