Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Pacers Will Rest Starters Versus Bucks

All five Pacers starters will sit out Wednesday’s game against the Bucks.

Despite holding the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers have been a downright mess lately.

Losers of seven of their last nine, the Pacers have imploded from within, seemingly forgetting the defensive principles that planted them atop the East for most of the season.

Indiana will rest all five of its starters Wednesday against the Bucks, an effort to regroup with just four games remaining before the playoffs. That means Milwaukee won’t have to deal with George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert.

The Pacers’ recent losing has resulted in highly publicized locker room unrest, culminating in the benching of Hibbert, the All-Star center, during Sunday’s embarrassing home loss to Atlanta. Hibbert played just nine minutes, all in the first half, and was visibly displeased on the bench and disengaged in team huddles.

It wasn’t the first time the outspoken Hibbert has expressed his displeasure. Following  a Mar. 28 loss to Washington – Indiana’s fourth in six games, at the time – Hibbert told reporters there are “some selfish dudes” in the locker room.

Indiana followed that Mar. 28 loss with two more at the hands of Cleveland and San Antonio – both by double-digits. After beating Detroit at home last Wednesday, the team appeared to be somewhat back on track, playing more loosely and displaying visibly positive body language.

But the good times were short-lived. Two days later, the Pacers fell to Toronto 102-94 and followed it up with the loss to Atlanta on Sunday, in which the Raptors led 55-23 at halftime.

It’s difficult to pinpoint a single cause for the team’s rapid demise. Some blame coach Frank Vogel’s inability to manage egos and expectations, while others place the onus on the declining production of Hibbert and George. It’s likely a mixture of both.

Once considered an MVP candidate, George’s numbers have declined across the board in the second half of the season. After averaging 24.1 points on 46.8 percent shooting from the field and 39.4 percent from three in December, George’s  numbers plummeted to 21.3 points on 41.0 percent shooting (31.5% 3Pt) in January. His shooting percentage dipped to 40.1 percent the following month and bottomed out at 37.2 percent (29.7% 3Pt) in March.

While George’s rebounding and assists numbers have remained consistent, he hasn’t been the dependable playmaker the league’s 25th-best scoring team needs him to be.

Hibbert has also seen a similar drop in production:

December: 13.4ppg, 7.6rpg, 51.7%FG, 3.8FTA

January: 11.2ppg, 6.9rpg, 41.9%FG, 4.2FTA

February: 9.8ppg, 7.1rpg, 46.3%FG, 1.7FTA

March: 9.7ppg, 4.6rpg, 42.2%FG, 3.0FTA

Whatever the reason may be for the decline, the Pacers are nearing panic mode as the first round of the NBA playoffs looms on the horizon. Perhaps giving the starters the night off will pay dividends. After all, could Indiana truly benefit from playing its starters against the league’s doormat? Beating the 14-win Bucks is the expectation, while a loss would only further concerns of an all-out implosion.

Regardless, Vogel’s decision levels the playing field for a bad Bucks team missing a number of key players.

Action tips off from the BMO Harris Bradley Center at 7:00 PM CT.


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