ISR Senior Writer
INDIANAPOLIS-In the NBA, starting-five-insurance comes at a premium. Having five- or-seven other players on the bench capable of producing at a high level is a piece of mind that you can’t put a price on.
George Hill missed his second night for the Indiana Pacers ailing a bruised shoulder, throwing C.J. Watson into the starting-five for the Pacers. Roy Hibbert got into foul trouble early and as a result Ian Mahinmi played 24 minutes taking on the work load for Indiana—both delivered with flying colors.
Mahinmi added nine points and seven rebounds to Watson’s 13 points, five assists and four rebounds in the Pacers 94-91 win over the Utah Jazz. The criticism surrounding Mahinmi comes and goes while Watson has mostly been a pleasant addition in the eyes of Pacers fans. What most don’t realize, or at least acknowledge, is the return Indiana has got from their investments into their bench.
If Pacers fans don’t value having a bench that can effectively relieve it’s starters, I’d imagine they will sometime between the fifth and sixth game of a playoff series. This Pacers team is deep. At some point during the season every NBA team has to go through it, but that shouldn’t take away how extremely hard it is to play on a Saturday night, return home at 4 a.m. and play again 14 hours later. If your reserves don’t deliver on those tired nights you’re most likely going to witness the detriment of a lousy bench.
“I’m really proud of my guys pulling out a win in a difficult circumstance getting in at four in the morning and playing a six-o’clock game is a tough situation,” Frank Vogel said of the back-to-back games. “Our guys showed a lot of mental toughness overcoming a lot of in game adversity, foul trouble, and our starting point guard hurt, it was a quality win. (There were) a lot of positives for our team.”
Luis Scola has been an upgrade from Tyler Hansbrough, as well but it’s not just the production. The chemistry that the reserves are displaying on the court with one another and in Vogel’s shuffled rotations mixed in with starters has been extremely impressive. Since acquiring Evan Turner and signing Andrew Bynum the Pacers have only gotten deeper and the starters have hardly skipped a beat.
David West scored 25 points and snagged six rebounds topping Paul George’s 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. Lance Stephenson had 11 points and eight rebounds. The Pacers are now 46-13 with a day off before welcoming a hot Golden State Warriors team to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.
“I feel like we’re getting the best out of each team. They’re (Golden State) going to be a tough match up and they’re a great team; they’ve got shot makers, play makers and great defensive guys. It’s going to be a tough game so we’ve got to bring our heart,” George said.
Corey Elliot is a Senior Writer at the Indy Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Pacers and has full media access. Follow Corey and the ISR on Twitter.