The Pacers finally vanquished the Atlanta Hawks. As they say in a famous 30 for 30, "survive and advance." For another week Vogel won’t be fired, Hibbert and Hill won’t be traded to D-League and the team in not moving to Boise Idaho.
Congratulations to Frank Vogel for having the conviction to stand his ground. If you are going to crucify him and fire him in the media then just like another famous Frank, we are going to do it his way. The Pacers not only won they won the way Vogel wants them to play. They finally played Smash-Mouth with their big line-up. They finally got their defense back. In game seven forget all the stats. Just watch the game and see how many passes the Pacers defense contested, tipped and deflected. The perimeter defenders closed out on the shooter and took chances because they knew the rim protectors were behind them. I do not know where this has been but it was great to see the defense back again. The bad news is the starters played a lot of minutes. West, PG and Hill all played over 43 minutes and Lance played 39 minutes plus. That is too much and the bench has to be better.
I know this will cause massive uproar amongst the masses but the more Copeland played in key situations the more you saw why he does not play much. He looked great when they were coming back from 20 something down in game five but his liabilities showed through in game 6 and especially game 7. Copeland has to be scoring to stay on the floor. Watson and Mahinmi were the only bench players in the Atlanta series with significant minutes in every game and both contributed good minutes most of the time.
Against Washington the bench will have to play better and go deeper. I believe Scola will go back into the rotation. He didn’t play badly but had match-up issues chasing the Hawks around the three point arc. Scola in the rotation will directly take some minutes away from West and indirectly give the wings a little rest too as they rotate players in and out. Despite playing limited minutes, Evan Turner was an almost unbelievable -35 for the series. Here was a series he should have been a good option in and instead he is starting to make the Colts Trent Richardson trade look good by comparison. If Turner remains in the doghouse maybe dependable Rasual Butler gets a few minutes. Again I will lobby for a few minutes out of La Voy Allen.
Atlanta’s style is unusual for the NBA. They reminded me of some Butler teams when Tood Lickliter was the coach with long range shooters Pete Campell and AJ Graves. There were times in the series when they played better than their record. Some of this was due to the Pacers issues and some of it was Atlanta just flat played well. Eventually if you live by the three you die by the three.
Washington offers a more traditional offense but also a bigger and more talented team than the Hawks. Randy Wittman has done a great job with this team and in my opinion they went into the playoffs highly underrated. If the Pacers sustain what they have done in the last 5 quarters they can win this in 5 or 6 games. If they fall back into bad habits the Wizards are very dangerous and have the talent to beat them.