More Watson and Mahinmi, less Hibbert

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

There are two players on Frank Vogel’s bench that have to play more: C.J. Watson and Ian Mahinmi. It’s not just your eyes that are telling you the Pacers are better with these two on the floor, the number are screaming it.

C.J. Watson and Ian Mahinmi have the best individual net ratings in points per 100 possessions in the three playoff games against the Hawks. The Pacers are +14.5 points per 100 possessions with Watson on the floor, and +10.6 with Mahinmi on. Paul George is third on the team at 4.2.

Yep, Watson and Mahinmi make the Pacers at least twice as good as any other player in this first round matchup.

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What's worse is that David West is the only other positive Pacer. Now take a look at the Pacers best two-man combinations in this series.

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That’s a lot of Watson and Mahinmi. Also, those are all of the positive two-man lineups.

So clearly Watson and Mahinmi should be receiving more minutes. Looking at game three, Watson played 22 minutes compared with 41 for Lance Stephenson and 36 for George Hill. Mahinmi played 20 minutes compared to 19 for Roy Hibbert.

It doesn’t really matter who starts; it is more important who plays the most minutes, and who is on the court in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. Whether Watson and Mahinmi should start is irrelevant, but they should be on the floor to finish games.

For Watson, he’s shot 56 percent on threes in the series and has knocked down tough shots like this one.

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So who should join them? Well, the Pacers best lineup so far in this series is Watson, Mahinmi, Hill, George and Scola. They are +69.2 per 100 possessions in 10 minutes of action. (Offensive rating: 140.4, defensive rating: 71.2)

Take those five and throw in West and Stephenson, and the rotation is set. Maybe Evan Turner or Chris Copeland can grab a few minutes in the second quarter, but that’s as far as Vogel should stretch the rotation.

No more Roy Hibbert. Hibbert is the center the Pacers need to win an NBA championship. He is to the Miami Heat what Pero Antic is to the Pacers. But Indiana does not need Hibbert to beat Atlanta. The more minutes Hibbert plays, the less likely Indiana is to win the first round series.

But here is some of what Vogel said about Hibbert after the game.

"I have confidence in Roy Hibbert."

"We’re not gonna quit on him. I know that. We’ll keep working with him, keep trying to figure it out."

"We won 56 games with him as our starter."

But Indiana is about to lose four playoff games with him as well.

Right now, you can’t question Hibbert’s effort. He’s been getting good position. He’s been getting some good looks at the basket. But he isn’t converting anything.

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Yeah, that’s the one he fumbled away. Antic completely left Hibbert to double Turner, who was backing down Korver. Turner made the right pass and Hibbert managed to mangle the pass into a turnover.

No Hawk rotated down to Hibbert. It was probably a breakdown, but would it surprise anyone if they just elected to take their chances with Hibbert trying to score against the basket? Right now the best defender on Hibbert is himself.

Mahinmi had a tip in off of a missed Stephenson jumper with 4:25 left in the third quarter. That one play, the act of raising a single hand and tipping the ball into the basket while a defender jumped at him, was a bigger positive than anything Hibbert did in the paint. Vogel recognized this too; Hibbert didn’t play the rest of the game.

So now we’ll see if the Pacers that have been productive against the 14th ranked Atlanta defense will get the proper playing time.

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