Desperate times, desperate measures: Pacers to rest all five starters vs. Bucks
In a course correction effort, Pacers coach Frank Vogel announced on Wednesday that all five of his starters will sit for Wednesday's game against the Bucks. Starting in their stead for the second-seeded Pacers will be Evan Turner, Luis Scola, Ian Mahinmi, Rasual Butler and Donald Sloan. C.J. Watson, who has played just eight total minutes since Mar. 4 as a result of a few different injuries, will join the active roster but play limited minutes.
Vogel spoke to the media at Pacers practice to announce his lineup intentions and explain his rationale (transcribed from video via Jeremiah Johnson):
The starters are not going to play tonight. All five of them. We're going to rest them and try to heal up some various bumps and bruises involved with all five guys. We're not playing well as a basketball team right now -- our starters aren't playing well, our bench is not playing well. We want to try to get the starters on track by getting their legs back under them and getting them healed up. And we want to get the bench on track by giving them extended minutes in tonight's game. That's the plan. We're going out to try to win this basketball game. We still have our sights on the No. 1 seed but the most important thing for our team is fixing our team. This is a plan to try to do that.
Vogel also clarified that the starters will practice with the team on Thursday before playing in Friday's game against Miami. As a tradeoff, Vogel noted that some bench players could be rested on Friday.
The decision to rest all five starters for the same game is a bit radical, but these are desperate times for the Pacers. For the season Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West, Lance Stephenson and George Hill have comprised one of the most effective high-usage lineups in the league. They outscore opponents on average by a round 10 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com -- a dominant mark illustrative of a contending core. Over the Pacers' last 20 games, however, that same group has actually been outscored at a rate of roughly a point per 100 possessions. That's an incredible, concerning collapse for what Vogel himself described as a "starter-owned" team.
Vogel has made very minor tweaks over the course of that slump but at this stage more drastic measures were in order. A one-game rest makes sense as both a momentary refresh with the playoffs near and an opportunity to get all five starters on the same page again. As Vogel told it, sitting those five in piecemeal might have been counterproductive in the long run:
The thought process behind all five guys is if you sit one or two guys per game then nobody ever finds a rhythm. And finding a rhythm is just as important as getting our guys rest. It's part of the solution. So they'll rest this game and they'll all rest this game look to find their rhythm Friday.Plus, with a game against Milwaukee its not as if Indiana is necessarily surrendering its candidacy for the No. 1 seed. The Bucks have dropped 16 of their last 18 games because they are honestly and earnestly that bad. There's boldness in resting the entire starting lineup still, though even the crummy Pacer subs should be able to keep competitive in a game against this kind of competition.