I was out of town and out of touch last night, so it was a pleasure to spend part of a lazy Sunday afternoon watching the Indiana Pacers take another step in the direction of change by downing what had become an annoying nemesis in the Milwaukee Bucks.
Before last night's late night run to close out the Bucks, 103-97, the Pacers had come close but lost six-straight games to the Bucks. The symbolic take-way in those losses was Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut getting the best of a young Roy Hibbert. In both the team matchup and the Hibbert/Bogut matchup there was often great anticipation before each meeting and frustrating disappointment in coming up short.
The grind to get it right makes that win last night all the sweeter.
Hibbert wasn't spectacular but he definitely won the matchup with Bogut, just as the Pacers weren't spectacular much of the night, but they won the matchup to move to 7-1 under Frank Vogel. I really like how Vogel has used his 10-man playing rotation in the past three games, managing each game and finding a different way to close out each win.
There's a bit of a myth about Vogel using the set rotation and his player responding knowing what their role is and when their minutes will come in the game. Yes, the starters remain the same each night as does the priority of players coming off the bench in the first half. But while the names may stay the same, the roles vary from game-to-game. Vogel adapts his approach as the game plays itself out and adjusts which players are on the court accordingly.
More on the playing rotations after the jump.
Just looking back at the past three games, all wins, it is easy to see how Vogel alters his second-half rotation based on what is happening in the game. Look, I realize it sound like common sense but we've all been frustrated in past games when certain players left the floor just as they were heating up or other players remained buried when their replacement wasn't doing much better.
Vogel has preached often about the depth of talent he has on the wing, almost apologizing because he can only squeeze four of them into the rotation which currently leaves Brandon Rush waiting for a break. But the coach's actions back up the talk, proving he's plenty comfortable relying on any of his wings to finish off a win alongside Danny Granger.
On Wednesday night against, Charlotte, Mike Dunleavy closed out the game as the Pacers fought to hang on for a win. On Friday night, Vogel changed course drastically catching a strong wind from Dahntay Jones who carried the Pacers down the stretch to a win, making it impossible for Vogel to take him off the court. Then last night in Milwaukee, Paul George made things go at the defensive end and closed out another win for the Pacers. John Salmons is still wondering who that kid was.
Vogel has shown his willingness to stick with the hot hand, at least in the second half. On Friday, he goofed by taking out a sizzling Mike Dunleavy in the first quarter. Dun had 14 points and counting and when the man is on a roll you must ride that wave to the beach because it might be a few more days before it happens again.
But I think it is more than the hot hand, also based on matchups and feel and what other players are doing which makes a certain wing more effective for the team at that point. In other words, he's coaching the game at hand, looking to attack the opponent instead of adapting to what they're doing. The same goes for the power forward spot, where Tyler Hansbrough can get on a roll and max out his playing time or play less when he doesn't have it on a certain night or when Josh McRoberts is holding his own down low.
Kind of fun to have options and it has to be motivating for the players to know that if they take advantage of the minutes they get, there may be more where that came from.