With less than a month left in the NBA regular season, most teams are dealing with injuries in some form or fashion wrought by the grind of the schedule over the past few months. Count the Indiana Pacers among the teams adjusting to injuries.
As I tell my sons all the time, there a difference between something hurting and actually being hurt. Playing through pain and injuries are different things and it appears the Pacers are trying to do both while also waiting for David West to return in shape for a playoff run.
The Pacers were able to lean on their bench in wins over Cleveland, Orlando and Cleveland. Even with Tyler Hansbrough in the starting lineup, the bench scored a combined 125 points over three wins. During the first half last night in Chicago, the Pacers appeared to have control of the game over the Bulls, a team also dealing with injury and missing Joakim Noah, on their way to a methodical win.
But then they simply ran out juice and didn't have enough energy to overcome their poor execution in the second half. As Mike Wells points out, the Pacers were forced to play five bench players at a critical juncture of the game.
Paul George was dealing with foul trouble. George Hill was dealing with a strained groin. Roy Hibbert had just played the entire third quarter. Same thing with Lance Stephenson, who was taken down hard by Nate Robinson moments earlier. Robinson was given a flagrant foul penalty 2, which meant an automatic ejection for the dirty play.
Everybody would have praised the bench if they had got the lead back or even stayed even with the Bulls at the start of the quarter.
But alas, the bench weren't able to raise their level of play to match Chicago's and once the momentum switched, the Pacers were unable to get it back. That's a nice way of saying, the Pacers earned that loss and with it a drop in the standings, falling the third place in the East by percentage points with the Brooklyn Nets lurking in fourth.
The Pacers will continue to balance playing through pain while taking care of injuries when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
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