The December Indiana Pacers are no more.
The Paul George that was a legitimate MVP candidate is no more.
The dominant Roy Hibbert is no more.
Perhaps, the Indiana Pacers title hopes are no more as well.
However, the struggling Pacers are very real at the moment — and they just continue to get worse. The Pacers have lost seven of their last nine games, and have lost homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs (for the moment) to the Miami Heat — something that the Pacers have been vocal about the entire season. It was their No. 1 regular season goal.
And just when we think the Pacers have hit rockbottom and are on their way back up, they reach an entirely new low. This time on Sunday night, in their 107-88 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Oh, yea. It’s also the same game in which they set a franchise record for fewest points scored in the first half (23). But that’s not even the worst part.
Roy Hibbert, who has been in somewhat of a second half of the season slump, only played nine minutes in the loss — his lowest minute log since 2010. And dare we ask, a benching from Frank Vogel?
“I got nothing to say,” Hibbert muttered.
He left the game early in the second quarter with the Pacers down 42-15 and never returned. Amazingly, Hibbert finished with with no rebounds, no assists, no personal fouls, no steals, no blocked shots and no points.
But Vogel didn’t call it a benching after the game. Instead, he said he was already debating whether to “rest” Hibbert before the game, so when it got out-of-reach he went ahead and just sat him.
“I considered resting Roy before tonight’s game because he looks worn down, he’s a 7-2 player that’s played every game this year, which is very rare,” Vogel said. “He looks to me to be worn down. He’s giving good effort, but he looks to me to be worn down.”
Paul George was just surprised. Odd.
“I was surprised just because it’s never happened,” George said about Hibbert not playing the second half as a healthy scratch from the lineup.
Still, if the Pacers are willing to concede the first seed to the Heat, Vogel should really think about sitting Hibbert, George and West for that matter. Maybe the core just needs a little time off to refresh right before the playoffs begin, and it really gets real.
The Pacers are one of the strangest teams in the league right now. A couple months ago, they looked like world-beaters and destined to knockoff the Miami Heat. Now, they’ll be lucky to even make the Eastern Conference Finals…if that.