Experienced, productive bench proving pivotal for Pacers

George Hill and Tyler Hansbrough defend Kobe Bryant. NBAE/Getty Images

Jan. 24, 2012 – By the numbers, Indiana's bench is not one of the most productive in the NBA, averaging 29.5 points per game, which ranks 20th overall.

Try convincing anyone on or around the team that stat means anything.

"There are some good benches out there. I think what Philadelphia does with their bench is extraordinary with Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams coming in leading them in scoring," Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. "But I love our bench and I would put it against any bench in the league."

Other benches may put up bigger stats but few, if any, can match the Pacers' when it comes to experience and ability to identify and execute what needs to be done in a given game situation.

Four of the five primary reserves have extensive experience as starters:

  • George Hill (10.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1.4 assists) started 55 games with the Spurs, including nine in the playoffs;
  • Tyler Hansbrough (10.1 points, 5.9 rebounds) has 30 career starts, the final 24 of last season (including all five in the first-round series against Chicago);
  • Dahntay Jones (5.5 points, 2.1 rebounds) has 135 career starts, 87 with Denver in 2008-09 including 16 in the playoffs as the Nuggets advanced to the Western Conference Finals:
  • Jeff Foster (3.0 points, 4.6 rebounds), who will miss the next week due to a lower back procedure, has 345 starts in his career with the Pacers.

While Hill and Hansbrough are young players on the way up, Jones and Foster are veterans that have accepted their roles.

"We're all just trying to do the best for the team," said Jones. "The guys coming off our bench have a lot of experience and just want to play and have an impact and the coach has given us a good role to be effective and be able to help out the team.

"We try to change the tempo of the game and try to take it up another notch. We have a lot of athletes coming off our bench, a lot of energy and athleticism and we just try to use it to the best of our ability."

Hill has come on particularly strong after a tentative start. In the last 11 games he has averaged 12.8 points, shot .563 overall and .531 from the 3-point line. He won the Golden State game with his steal and drive in the closing seconds, and has become a consistent source of offensive punch and energy.

"I feel like we have seven starters here," he said. "We've got two guys that come off the bench here (Hansbrough and himself) that really be starters anywhere. The deeper we are the better off we are.

"It doesn't matter who starts the game. As a whole, you want to win the game and do all the things you can to help that. The deeper we are, the more fun this season's going to be."

Hansbrough finished last season with a surge and played well against the Bulls in the playoffs but the 2009 first-round pick found himself with the second unit when the Pacers signed former All-Star David West as a free agent.

Not only has he accepted the new role, he has embraced it. With the first unit he was a secondary offensive option. With the second unit, he is the team's primary inside threat.

"I just come off the bench and provide energy and kind of give the team a spark," Hansbrough said. "Also I think with me and George Hill coming off with our abilities, there's not going to be a drastic dropoff.

"You understand how deep we are and I think that's the reason we're able to get a lot of leads and extend them. But also with this season the way it's condensed and how many games you have in this amount of time, it's going to be key."

Coming off a three-game road trip and heading into another after tonight's game, the Pacers are well-equipped, thanks to their deep and consistent second unit, to handle the physical and mental strain of this compressed season.

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