The Pacers' Bench Was Awful in Game 5, Needs to Step Up

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After the Pacers lost Game 2 in embarrassing fashion, allowing the Knicks to go on a 30-2 run, the media asked Frank Vogel about a timeout he called late in the third quarter. It seemed to stall some of the momentum his team had been picking up.

So goes the story.

He was short with his answer, to that question and on the whole during the press conference. For understandable reasons, he didn’t resemble the cheerful, nice man I have grown accustomed to encountering.

Along with calling the timeout, Vogel also took Roy Hibbert out of the game and inserted Jeff Pendergraph.

Then the bottom fell out and the Knicks ran away with the game.

He was asked why he made the substitution.

“I can’t play my starters 48 minutes,” said Vogel. “I’ve got to use our bench at some point.”

There were other issues in Indiana’s Game 5 loss (David West’s poor shooting and missed free throws, in particular), but that comment is essentially what this game came down to.

The Pacers’ bench is a nightmare.

DJ Augustin had been a bright spot since the playoffs started. Tyler Hansbrough has added some production at times. And Ian Mahinmi can do a good job replicating the rim protection that Roy Hibbert provides in the starting unit.

But there is nobody in this reserve group who has been a reliable contributor all season.

In Game 5, with George Hill a late-afternoon scratch, the bench was needed than normal. If the Pacers were going to close out the Knicks, in New York, someone would need to step up.

Instead, they largely played like D-Leaguers, making head-scratching mistakes that cost the team possessions and, ultimately, any chance to win this game.

Here is a run down of some of the lowlights.

Gerald Green

  • Turned the ball over after getting flustered by bringing the ball up against token Knicks pressure
  • Turned the ball over on a simple entry pass in the fourth quarter
  • Turned the ball over again a simple entry pass in the fourth quarter
  • Got blindsided by a screen badly in the back court while guarding J.R. Smith, who immediately dribbled into the paint and blew up the Pacers’ defense, which left Chris Copeland wide open for a three
  • Overall impact on game: Became a shaky ball-handler the Knicks preyed on, coughing up three turnovers in 13 minutes

Sam Young

  • He made a boneheaded foul to close the first half that gave J.R. Smith three free throws.
  • He made a terrible, playground-gimmick-style, reach-around steal attempt on Melo that got Roy Hibbert his fifth foul when he had to help to stop Anthony from getting a layup
  • Overall impact on game: Provided some decent defense on Carmelo (at least forcing him into a few tough shots), but scored no points in 15 minutes and made two bonehead plays that were magnified by the consequences.

DJ Augustin

  • Consistently played bad pick-and-roll defense all game
  • Made an asinine behind the back pass to destroy what should have been certain fast-break points
  • Missed a wide-open David West on a fourth-quarter fast break, led to a Paul George turnover
  • Got blocked hilariously by J.R. Smith on a fourth-quarter fast-break that didn’t earn Indiana any points
  • Gave the ball right back to New York after making a nice steal
  • Overall impact: Didn’t run the offense particularly well, ran the fast-break terribly, played pretty bad defense and, despite making a few shots, was a letdown

Ian Mahinmi

  • Shot 1-for-4 from line.
  • Forgot how pivot feet work and turned the ball over
  • After getting matched up on J.R. Smith, decided not to guard him and, after some miscommunication with Sam Young, allowed a wide-open three
  • Overall impact: Small mistakes aside, he wasn’t bad and provided some pretty good rim protection as Roy Hibbert was sidelined.

This is a little unfair.

I could make a laundry list of the four starters’ bad plays as well. There were all the Paul George misses on open three-point looks, a horrible turnover by Roy Hibbert in the fourth against a token double team and a virtual game-ending giveaway by David West on a kick out that became a backcourt violation.

Still, those guys all played 30-plus minutes (George played 43, West played 39), and had many positive effects on the game.

Green and Young? Not so much.

Paul George seemed to know just how unreliable these guys were. When he picked up his fifth foul and Vogel sent Young to the scorer’s table, he waved the move off vehemently. He wanted to stay in the game. He needed to stay in the game.

Though not explicitly talking about the bench — he meant the whole team — David West summed things up pretty well after the game. “We didn’t step up to this moment,” said West.

When asked what Hill’s status would be for the next game, he said, “I don’t have a clue.” He said that he hopes Hill bounces back, but if he doesn’t, “we’ve had the mindset and attitude of next guy up. Guys just have to be prepared to step up.”

Yes.

Yes they do.

An NBA saying is that the bench doesn’t travel. The Pacers bench certainly did not for Game 5 in New York.

It’s possible that Paul George and David West can combine for, say 54 points tonight on 19-for-25 shooting and just end this series. But that’s not really how this team is built. They expect all the starters to play well. Sometimes that is enough.

But at some point, you need the reserves to do something.

Tonight would be a good time.

Topics: 2013 Playoffs, Pacers Vs. Knicks

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  • NLP

    We will never have a good consistent bench until we either get a weaker starting 5 or get someone they have the guts to give shots to. Our bench as a whole takes less shots than a real 6th man takes by himself and its hard for players to be successful getting a few sporadic shots a game.

    I think the only play we have for out bench players is that little lob play we give Green whenever he’s playing so most all our our bench offense comes off long 3′s or broken plays with 90% of the time standing there watching the starters in with them run the show. So it takes a ton to go right just to get one decent game out of them as working a bench is one of Frank’s weaknesses. The leagues elite coaches could make a good bench out of even our players and have got by with lesser guys at times.

    • Guest

      you are the only person who seems to think we have a talented bench. we don’t. sorry. dj is only valuable when he is hitting shots, otherwise he is doing his “travis best” impression of pounding the ball into the court 27 feet from the hoop for 10 seconds a possession. gerald green will never figure it out. thans is passable in the regular season and gets exposed in the playoffs (cost us by being overaggressive on PnRs and giving up open shots to Copeland tonight, commits bailout fouls, and is generally atrocious when he is not drawing fouls on offense), Ian is actually a solid back up big man (though his stone hands tend to be inhibiting at times).

      you are also in the minority of your view on Frank’s coaching ability. Good thing he doesn’t listen to people like us. Sam Young was a major reason for the win tonight (just threw up in my mouth a little while typing that). Even Knicks players were complimenting how well coached we are.

      • NLP

        We have talent on our bench but Frank doesn’t know how to use it and with out starting 5 we rarely ever give them enough shots to be successful if he did.

        If we give our bench to a Gregg Popovich or a Tom Thibodeau there is no doubt they make them a winning unit, they always get every ounce of talent of our their guys many of which weren’t even wanted elsewhere.

        Ian’s won a title coming off the bench came here shooting 56% and took a major step here, Tyler starts and kills it gets big shots off the bench and kills but them gets exposed when not ever giving the rock more that 3 times on a lucky night. DJ has started in the league and even had a nice 14.4 and 6.1 season, Hill was only 14.2 and 4.7 this year. Sam has started 11 playoff games. Gerald no doubt sucks but has shown sings of being better than he has been here.

        The numbers don’t lie players die when they come to our bench even when we added a proven bench player like Barbosa he ended up having his worst stop of his career. Lance was nothing on the bench last year and was up and down before getting put with the starters due to GG sucking and shoots 10% higher as a starter.

        With limited shots and PT these players just can’t be successful day in and day out and with most all of them not being defense first players they are going to suck more times than not when not included in the flow of the offense.

    • NLP

      I typed this original post just when the Bench came in tonight in and then every thing I typed came true. They got 4 shots and 4 FT total. Three of the shots came one long 3′s the one inside the arc came off a offensive rebound after a scramble for a loose ball resulted in a jumper and a wide open Young to put it back when half the players were heading the other way on the original loose ball. The 4 FT came after the worst toss I’ve ever seen an offical make resulted in a fast break the other way and then an offensive rebound on a Pacers missed FT in fouling situation late.

      So we give the bench just 4 shots in 37:47 of total play with just one shot inside the arc and that along with all their FT came on lucky bounces. That’s just not putting your players in a position to succeed and isn’t going to cut it vs the Heat who’s bench low mark in 9 playoff games in 25 points so far.

      • djmcba

        As much as it pains me; I have to somewhat agree with you.

        Vogel reminds me of doc rivers as a young coach, great motivator, great talent developer, awesome on the defensive side of the ball (could easily say his defensive prowess was courtesy of thibs), but his offensive philosophy isn’t very refined. That makes it tough for our bench to really succeed though we certainly lack a top caliber 6th man.

        I do think you are a little overly concerned with shot numbers. It’s not as if Frank dictates the number of shots they should take, and if getting mahinmi/Thans more shots comes at the expense of our starters shots- that makes no sense.

        Another thing, numbers don’t lie, but are being misused and misunderstood if they say DJ had a better season than GHill.

        That said, I definitely agree with you on Franks need to coax more out of our bench. He is one of the best and brightest young coaches in the NBA, so lets hope he adds that to the arsenal sooner than later.

        • NLP

          I think Frank does dictate how many shots they take since we never run players for our bench players. Most times when the bench is in the offense exclusively revolves around the starters while the bench players tend to stand around. When this happens it makes us far to predictable.

          If whatever the starters are trying to do fails the end result these playoffs is the kick out 3 leaving the rest of the offense to come from whatever happens from hitting the offensive glass.

          If you are going to play there players who aren’t great defensive players for what amounts to more than starters time combined you need to give them shots, The starters shooting percentage has been rough this PO from teams knowing they don’t have to worry about the bench as well as the added workload.

          Most NBA players will shoot better with more shots that just getting 3 or 4 shots, and when they feel like they are being used and part of the team it will carry over to D. Even Green when he would hit shots would get some extra bounce in his defense.

          In game one vs NY we had two guys get 6 shots off the bench and they both shot at least 50% and added 27 total points. In the next 5 games of the series we only had a 3 games where a player topped 3 shots off the bench and all 3 maxed out at 5 shots and two of those were Green gunning in limited time with the other being DJ and he put up 11 points and a +9 game which was 3rd best on the team that night.

          I’m not saying DJ is better than Hill at ability but DJ has shown the ability to put up numbers in this league only to regress like most every other player who plays on our bench,

          We will never have a good bench as long as Frank is here unless he changes his ways on offense or we find a pure defensive player as a starter like a Chandler who only takes a few shots a game forcing him to give shots to anyone on the bench,

          We have a great starting 5 but they can only do so much and no matter how great they play they can’t beat Miami 9 of 5.5 and both times we beat them in the RS we won the bench battle averaging 24 points a game off the bench, Tyler himself was good for 9 a game average in the wins due to Miami’s love affair with fouling him.