Pacers need revamped bench to find rhythm
May 2, 2012 – Two games in a row, it happened.
In Game 1, the Pacers jumped out to a 19-9 lead, making 9 of 17 shots. But once the bench checked in, things went the other way. Orlando put together a 15-4 run as Indiana shot 1-of-12 (including 0-of-7 from the reserves) to take a 24-23 and not only regain its footing, but dig in for the long haul.
In Game 2, the Pacers jumped out to an 18-7 lead but again Orlando turned the game around when Indiana went to the bench, this time with a 25-10 run to take a 32-28 lead.
With two players that started all five games against Chicago a year ago and two others with a combined 82 games of postseason experience on the second unit, this isn't supposed to happen. In the absence of a dominant superstar, the Pacers have been built for depth, which means they lean heavily on their second unit.
If they are to get at least one victory in Orlando, with the first chance coming in Game 3 tonight (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Indiana, NBATV, WIBC 93 FM), the Pacers will need more from the bench.
"We need our second unit," Coach Frank Vogel said. "We can't play our starters the full game. It has come and gone throughout the year. Sometimes our starters are the guys that are struggling and the second unit picks them up. We'll keep the normal rotation and if a certain unit isn't getting it done, then we'll adjust."
In the first two games of the series, the second unit combined to produce 32 points (16.0) on 12-of-36 shooting (.333). During the regular season, the Pacers got 30.4 points per game from the bench, 19th in the league.
Part of the issue is an adjustment to the point guard swap, both individually and collectively. Darren Collison has struggled since George Hill took his place in the starting lineup. In six games coming off the bench, he has averaged 3.7 points, shot 9 of 29 (.310) and produced 18 assists and 12 turnovers.
"It's a big adjustment," Collison said. "I'm trying to make my way in there but no complaints on my part, I'm just trying to do the best I can and if I've got to defensive pressure the full court, I'm going to do that.
"Our first unit has done a heck of a job. I think the difference-maker is the second unit. They're going to need us for the next two games and hopefully if we continue to go farther and farther in the playoffs, it's going to be important for us."
Amundson said the group is adapting to the switch.
"I think more than anything, it's about that chemistry because when you come in off the bench, you don't have a lot of time to feel the rhythm of the game and kind of get used to each other and feel each other out," Amundson said. "You have to hit the ground running. More than anything, it's about familiarity and chemistry with that second unit to get it going to where it's a really productive few minutes for us."
With Collison, Leandro Barbosa, Tyler Hansbrough and Lou Amundson, the reserves have ample speed and scoring ability. They need to get stops, however, in order to generate transition opportunities.
"There's a lot of things we've got to do," Collison said. "First of all, we've got to play defense. I think once we make a commitment on the defensive end we can go out and run. We have some of the best scorers in transition with Leandro, Tyler and Lou but it all starts with the defensive end."
The bench has been good before and likely will be good again.
But in the crucible of the postseason, the Pacers can't afford to wait much longer.