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Vogel, Pacers Hope Rest Can Help Solve the Riddle

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

April 8, 2014

Tuesday’s Pacers practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse had an unusual feel to it. With a welcomed second off day between games, Pacers coach Frank Vogel opted to give his starters the day off from practice.

“I think rest and healing up nagging injuries is part of the solution,” he said before catching the team’s flight to Milwaukee. “It’s not the whole solution but I think it’s part of it.

“Obviously we haven’t been very strong with our shot making of late. Our defense the other night was as bad in terms of containing the basketball as we’ve been all year. I think that has to do with legs and commitment. We just want to be mindful of making sure we’re as fresh as possible going into the playoffs.”

Vogel said veteran David West and Paul George, both of whom have played and started all 78 games this season, thought it would help and suggested it “in a very positive way.” Roy Hibbert has also yet to miss a game.

Lance Stephenson wasn’t in the lineup for two games and George Hill has missed five, but Vogel says Hill has more than made up for missed time by playing extended minutes in the absence of backup C.J. Watson, who is hoping to return on Wednesday.

“Paul, David, and Roy have played every single game and that’s rare, especially when you play 18 games in a month with 11 road games,” said Vogel.

In hindsight, Vogel said he regrets not giving guys nights off during their busy March slate.

“I think there was a consequence to that and I think our guys look worn down,” Vogel said.

Paul George has the most reason to be tired. He’s sixth among NBA players in minutes played and like Hibbert, didn’t have an All-Star break to get off his feet. Hibbert’s minutes rank 61st in the league (ninth among centers), and sixth on the team behind the other four starters and Evan Turner, who played 35 minutes per game while with Philadelphia.

With the starters excused on Tuesday, that meant extended practice time for the reserves. That group of nine, plus assistant video coordinator Jhared Simpson, went hard for short of 90 minutes. There was a lot of teaching and up and down work, according to Evan Turner. He called it “a coach’s dream” to have a practice like that this late in the season.

With four games remaining, the Pacers are two games back of Miami in the loss column in the battle for the top seed in the East. The Heat, however, have six games left including a Friday date with the Pacers in Miami. Vogel says the decision to rest players shouldn’t be interpreted as ceding the number one seed.

“It’s well-documented that we’re still interested competing for the 1-seed,” Vogel said at Sunday's shootaround, “but how you play and how you prepare for the playoffs is the most important thing right now.”

As the team turns its attention to the Milwaukee Bucks, who they face on Wednesday, Vogel said the personnel would be different.

“Not everybody will play,” he said. “We’ll pick our spots over the final four games to get the guys that need rest some rest and in the meantime, try to win all four games.”

The Pacers have dropped six straight games on the road and eight of 11 overall. Their season history seems to indicate that rest indeed bodes well for the team. They’re 17-1 this season with at least two days between games.

More than a week ago, Vogel said he had tried everything except benching guys during their current slide. That changed Sunday. Now, the hope is that rest — mentally as well as physically — will positively impact the way they conclude the regular season.

“I think getting them some rest will make them fresher going into the playoffs,” Vogel said. “It’s not the answer, but I think it’s part of it.”

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