The Pacers took another dispiriting loss while trudging through the start of the season as damaged goods.
After a lifeless first quarter with ten turnovers, the Pacers looked every bit the team with key players feeling the physical wear of more minutes than they are used to playing. An easy win for the visiting Wizards seemed a given.
Yes, the Wizards won 97-90, but it wasn't easy.
Even after the Pacers fell behind by more than 20 points. Even after Roy Hibbert, the one player with a little early energy, bruised his knee midway through the first half and didn't return. Even after Frank Vogel was forced to play Shayne Whittington for his first real NBA minutes.
The Pacers not only didn't go away, they came all the way back within three points in the middle of the fourth quarter. But as usual, there wasn't enough firepower to get over the hump and steal the win. Solomon Hill was magnificent, finishing with 28 points and six rebounds while logging almost 43 minutes.
But the Wizards still had John Wall, Marcin Gortat and Paul Pierce around to kick it into gear down the stretch and hold off the valiant effort from the Pacers. But this game was lost long before the opening tip.
Frank Vogel rotated all ten available players eventually, as the compounding minute totals of players like Donald Sloan, Solomon Hill and Chris Copeland were evident early in the game.
Playing their fourth game in five days, there were some heavy legs for guys not used to the heavy workload. Sloan is averaging 36 minutes per game (and really needs to play more). In the three prior games this week, the point guard logged 108 minutes. Last season, Sloan played his 108th total minute in mid-January and half of those were in the first week of the season in three games George Hill missed.
Combine that reality with a quality opponent trying to find their stride and the end result is no shock. The shock was a lineup of Whittington, Damo Rudez, Solomon Hill, A.J. Price and Chris Copeland down one possession and matching up against Washington's starters in the middle of the fourth quarter.
Sloan admitted after the game, he's trying to adjust to the heavy responsibility of running the team along with dealing with the physical toll it is taking on his body. He wants to be more assertive to start games and has to push through the fatigue to remain aggressive and still set up his team to make plays.
Solomon Hill is adjusting too. "Last home game, I had a moment where I couldn't get my wind. I came out then came back in and was good for the rest of the game. You have to play it wisely. You can't just try to run through it."
He then looked around and started to say there are plenty of other players here who can go in, then smiled and caught himself.
"Well, we don't have a lot of guys that can go in at the moment."
Nope. But at this rate, Sloan and Hill will soon be able to handle the various levels of fatigue like seasoned vets.