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Notebook: Pacers Rested Up, Ready to Go

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

January 13, 2014

In the locker room Friday night after the Pacers’ best defensive performance of the year, a game in which they held the Washington Wizards to an NBA-low 66 points, coach Frank Vogel had one specific order for everybody.

“I’m shutting the building down,” he told the team. “I don’t want anybody stepping foot in here. No coaches, no players, nobody.”

That decision was made upon completing a brutal schedule, five games in seven days. They came out 4-1, with their only loss coming in Atlanta, where they’ve dropped 12 straight regular season games.

While Vogel appreciates his team’s hard work and dedication to be better, he also recognizes the importance of laying low. They’re not even to the midway point of the season.

“I believe in the power of resting and rejuvenation,” Vogel said. “Every time we have an off day, all three of my assistants are in here for eight to ten hours and if I come in for an off day, probably 11 of our 14 guys are in here getting a lift, getting shots up or watching tape with a coach. That’s good, and I credited them for that, but sometimes you need a day off.”

Vogel admitted, though, that he still worked from home.

“It’s always on my mind,” he said. He had the Indianapolis Colts playoff game and the other NFL game on in the background.

This week, the Pacers have a lighter load. Following three days between games, they play three games in five nights, and then jet west for 12 days.

Pacers guard Lance Stephenson took advantage of the free day to hang out with his younger brother.

“It was definitely difficult,” he said of staying out of the gym. “I just stayed home and played (NBA2K) with my brother. Of course I played with the Pacers and I play against whichever team we play next.”

“We won,” Stephenson added with a big smile.

Each simulation he does, Stephenson plays with the Pacers and he purposely shoots with his teammate, Paul George, the whole game. Stephenson is so good at playing the game that he likes to try different stuff within the game. He prefers to play as his teammates and see what they can do in the game. And he says it’s very similar to what they do in real life.

“Paul George is a high-flying shooter,” he said. “Roy’s got the hook. [David] West is strong with the short jump shot. G-Hill – smart point guard, who can hit the 3.

“And they got me and I just try to do tricks with myself. I don’t even try to score. I just try to do a trick pass or a trick between-the-leg crossover and pass the ball. I don’t really like to score with myself when I play 2K. I like to score with Paul all the time.”

Sounds about right, doesn’t it?

Paul George Fighting Through Shooting Slide

It wasn’t too long ago that Paul George had earned his way into the MVP conversation. He was one of the top three scorers in the league while leading his team to the best record in the entire NBA.

As his game has improved, however, defenses have changed the way they’ve guarded him. George knows he’s become a red flag on opponents’ scout sheet. In turn, he’s had a tougher time scoring, and his shooting percentage has dropped.

Through the first 30 games, he shot 47.5 percent from the field and averaged 25 points per game. Over the last six games, however, George is shooting 34.3 percent and averaging 16.5 points per contest. In four of those six games, he failed to score more than 16 points, and in the two that he did, it took him 25 and 24 shots, respectively.

Part of that can be attributed to the Pacers having three sets of back-to-back games to start off the year and five games in seven nights. George believes it’s something else.

"It’s frustrating because I’m trying to attack the basket and make the game easier from the free throw line,” he said. “I just feel like I’m not getting calls."

George’s free throw attempts haven’t dropped by more than one, but he is firing fewer 3-point attempts.

“I just got to keep going after it, keep attacking the basket and hopefully that style of play will earn the respect of the refs,” George continued. “I just got to stay being aggressive.”

Vogel firmly stands behind his star.

“He dominated the game,” Vogel said after Friday’s win, where George finished 2-of-14 for eight points, along with 14 rebounds, six assists and just one turnover.

“When you’re dominating like you are on the defensive end, it’s rare that you see somebody give you anything on the offensive end. The fact that he missed a few shots doesn’t change one thing.”

PG Ditches the Tape, For Now

Most have noticed and many have asked about Paul George wearing tape on his right index finger. It’s a minor injury that dates back to the preseason. He jammed it and it swelled up pretty big. Since that incident, he’s had it wrapped in tape before each practice and game.

In the first half of Friday’s game, it came off as he was run into a screen (he called it an illegal screen). He went without the tape for the rest of the game.

“It didn’t feel too bad,” he said.

“I don’t know whether the tape protected my finger or not, but it felt like it was a shield. The last game I just wanted to see what was the difference of me playing with it or without it. I still felt like I was shooting the ball. It wasn’t nothing different on my shot, I just wasn’t making it.”

He hasn’t practiced with tape on his index finger for the past two days and plans to go without it.

Uptick in Scola’s Rebounding

Pacers power forward Luis Scola continues to look more comfortable with each new game. Some players believe it takes at least a couple months to be acclimated with a new team’s system.

Over the last nine games, Scola has been particularly active on the boards, pulling down more than seven per game on average. He’s finished with at least eight rebounds in five of those nine games (55.5 percent) after doing that just twice in the first 27 (7.4 percent).

So what’s changed? Is he more comfortable, or maybe it’s his teammate, Lance Stephenson, not stealing rebounds in his quest for triple-doubles?

Scola's take: “It’s a point of emphasis for me because it’s a great way for me to be committed and help the team. It doesn’t depend on anybody, but you just have to go get them.”

National TV Awaits

The Pacers will get all kinds of national attention over the next eight days. Each of their next five games will be televised nationally — two on NBA TV, two on TNT, and one on ESPN.

“Fantastic,” Vogel said. “But it doesn’t really impact what we’re doing. It’s good for our fans. I like the TV timeouts, not getting rushed out of huddles.”

When the schedule came out in August, the Pacers were slated to appear on national TV 17 times (seven on NBA TV, eight on ESPN and two on TNT), a lower number than anticipated. Nearly halfway into the season, the Pacers have added two games each on NBA TV and ESPN.

Still, it’s not something this team is used to.

“That’s still new to us," Paul George said. "So this will be an exciting for all of us. I’ll be pumped every night going out there.”

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