USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

The Indiana Pacers received quite a scare in their series with the Washington Wizards, but after a 95-92 win on Sunday,¬† they look ready to move onto the Eastern Conference Finals. Holding a 3-1 lead, some work remains for Indiana. However, with two home games still left, Sunday’s win just may have buried the Wizards once and for all.

The biggest reason for the Pacers’ victory was due to a superhuman effort from their starters, including Paul George who posted game-highs of 39 points and 12 rebounds. It’s a good thing they played so well because Indiana seemed insistent on running their starters flat into the ground.

If it seems like the Pacers’ starters were out there for nearly the entire game, a cursory glance at the box score affirms that they were. Indiana’s bench players saw a scant 33 minutes of action. To put that into context, Drew Gooden of the Wizards played nearly that much by himself, recording 27 on his own.

Even key reserves such as Luis Scola, Earl Watson, and Ian Mahinmi, who¬†average approximately 17 minutes each, saw their time drastically cut, playing less than half of that. Evan Turner‘s nine minutes were half of the 18 he played in the team’s Game 3 win. Add it all up, and the 33 bench minutes were nearly half of the 63 they had averaged in the series coming into Sunday’s game.

As would be expected, the lack in time on the floor also led to a mammoth decrease in production. More specifically, the bench contributed a measly two points on a C.J. Watson bucket.

Perhaps the reason they played so little was because they weren’t particularly helpful once they got into the game. Indiana’s reserves clearly looked rusty in the little time they were on the court and could never get into any real rhythm. In all, the Pacers got only two points on 1-9 shooting from the floor, five rebounds, and two assists to go along with their five turnovers.

Thoroughly outplayed by the Wizards’ backups, the collection of Scola, Watson, Mahinmi, and Turner all had minuses in +/- ratio. Collectively, they were -49 on the night. When you consider that Washington’s bench players were +37 in defeat, Indiana’s bench just looked rather awful.

When it was all said and done, the message sent by Indiana head coach Frank Vogel was abundantly clear – win Game 4 at all costs. If that meant keeping George, Roy Hibbert, and company on the floor, that’s what had to be done. On the surface, it’s easy to question playing guys so many minutes in the grind of the long and difficult postseason. Vogel, though, has virtually assured his team will move to the next round and the end could justify the means.