The Pacers are on a 9-2 stretch as the prepare to begin a road trip in Los Angeles on Sunday night. The recent success has run through a series of minor injuries which has exposed the Pacers' depth as a positive.
Whether guards or big men are forced to miss games, Frank Vogel always seems to pull a trump card off the bench to go for the win. In the win over Chicago on Friday, that trump card was Solomon Hill who played 12 key minutes in the second half to help keep contain a Bulls' surge.
Nikola Mirotic was having his way against a smaller C.J. Miles. After Solo aggressively kept himself under Mirotic's chin for one possession, Fred Hoiberg subbed Taj Gibson for Mirotic and the threat diminished. Then Hill went on to make plays at the offensive end by setting up teammates with three assists.
"We needed him," Vogel said of Hill. "They had Gibson and Noah out there. We told him before the game to be ready and he stepped up and played terrific. His run was a big part of us closing out the game."
After hearing about Jordan Hill's back issues, Solo knew there he would likely be part of the rotation. Against a more physical team like Chicago, Solo has the strength and athleticsm for the Pacers to remain small but still strong defensively.
Despite is lack of playing time, Vogel hasn't let Solo lanquish on the end of the bench, instead keeping him in tune and ready for him to play Solo's card.
"Vogel has always told me that, told me to always to be ready," Solo said. "He told me when we lost Myles that he wasn't going to call one of the guys up because he wanted to use me. He wants to stay with that small lineup, that's the syle of play we're trying to play. Whether it's the two, three, four or whatever coach needs me to do, I'm going to be ready."
Why does it always seem guys come off the Pacers bench ready to contribute?
According to Hill, those guys like Chase Budinger and Lavoy Allen have played a lot of NBA minutes and a variety of situations. They are pros and know what to do when called on.
So does Solo.
"Last year I got the opportunity to lead the team in minutes," Solo sadi. "That just helps me better with any situations that comes up. Whether it is two minutes, if it's 10 minutes, if it's 20 minutes I play a role where I know what to do when I get in there."
Just another card in Vogel's hand to throw on the table when needed. On Friday against the Bulls, Solo's role as the trump card led to another winning hand for the Pacers.
As the Pacers begin their road trip with Jordan Hill's back still questionable, we'll see what other cards Vogel has up his sleeve.