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Approaching the bench: Pacers' reserves to be cross-examined by Raptors

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Indiana's bench thrived as starters against the Milwaukee Bucks, can they do more of the same against the East's top reserves?

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

In retrospect, it almost seems like Frank Vogel moved to tweak the playing rotation -- following his team's embarrassing home loss to the Orlando Magic -- with one eye focused on the possibility of playing the Toronto Raptors. Reinserting Lavoy Allen into the starting lineup isn't as much of a drawback on defense when his counterpart is old friend, Luis Scola.

To the former Pacer's credit, he is shooting 40 percent on a career-high 161 attempts from long-range this season; however, many of those tries are the product of drive-and-kick action rather than pick-and-pop. Asking Allen to stick with Scola as he hangs around the perimeter waiting for the ball is a much simpler cover for the traditional power forward than expecting him to blitz the pick-and-roll ball-handler and recover to stretch-shooters.

More important than Allen's individual match-up though is that moving him to the starting lineup allowed Vogel to juice the bench, a must-have when facing off against the best second-unit in the Eastern Conference. Toronto's bench outscored opponents by 7.0 points per 100 possessions this season, second to only the San Antonio Spurs. When Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross, Patrick Patterson, and Bismack Biyombo were joined by All-Star Kyle Lowry, that number jumped to 16.4 points per 100 possessions.

Toronto's bench is great, which means Indiana's had to get better.

Vogel accomplished that feat by searching for players that wouldn't neutralize Ty Lawson's high-motor game by lagging behind the break. By replacing Lavoy Allen and Jordan Hill with Solomon Hill and Myles Turner, Indiana's bench had an aggregate Net Rating of 8.4 during the month of April, supplanting the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors as the East's best over the same span of time.

With the Pacers still struggling to defend against spread lineups without Solomon Hill on the floor, the second-unit is going to have to be able to hold their own if Toronto falls in step and targets Indiana's slower traditional power forward from the tip.

"We're definitely hoping that's going to be a strength of ours going into the playoffs," Vogel said of the second unit's improved play. "We've had some teams where the bench was a weakness, and I think that's going to be the opposite this year. This year's bench is going to carry us through stretches..."

From a second-unit that found its stride against mostly sub-.500 opponents, anything less likely will not be enough against a bench that has already proven itself capable of outplaying Indiana's starters.