Indiana Pacers Resting Starters with Conference Title on the Line

The Indiana Pacers are heading in the wrong direction as the NBA regular season winds to a close. After leading the Eastern Conference for most of the season, the Pacers have nosedived in the past month and a half.

This season Indiana told themselves they did not want to face the Miami Heat again on the road in a seventh game of a playoff series. For Indiana it was the No. 1 seed or nothing.

Now the Pacers are amidst a collapse that has created finger pointing off proportions not seen for the last three seasons combined.

The Pacers have all but conceded the No. 1 seed to Miami thanks to their poor month of March and start to April. That message was not delivered any clearer than by head coach Frank Vogel who said his starters would be rested on and off during the remaining four games left in the regular season.

Vogel said the No. 1 seed was a goal the team had, but now just playing well is their top priority and part of accomplishing that is being rested heading into the postseason.

The process began on Monday when Vogel cancelled the team’s practice and then on Tuesday gave his starters another day off.

The timing however seems strange. Indiana is just a half game behind the Heat and first place in the conference despite going 2-9 over their last 11 games. They also own the tiebreak versus Miami.

Miami lost on Tuesday to Brooklyn, who has been the best Eastern Conference team since the All-Star game. Miami must now visit Memphis who is in a dogfight with Phoenix for a playoff berth out West, on Wednesday.

If Indiana can beat Milwaukee and get help from Memphis, then the game on Friday between the Pacers and Heat would become huge again.

However, it seems Indiana does not look at things like that anymore. Their priority is to be prepared for the postseason regardless of the seed they end up in, especially if a benefit to finishing in second means avoiding the Chicago Bulls in the second round.

A source has said that Larry Bird the president of the Pacers supports the resting of the team’s starters.

Vogel explains the team played 18 games in March and 11 of them were on the road. That he said wore some players down and he in retrospect says it would have been better resting his players then.

The strong bond the Pacers have had all season helping them to stay in first place in the East most of the year seems to have started to break. Roy Hibbert was benched in the Pacers last game and looked dejected watching the team’s practice on Tuesday in street clothes.

Hibbert has played well this season against Miami but has not shot over 50% from the floor in 10 consecutive games and sulked at the end of the bench during the Atlanta game.

This is not the best time of the season for the Pacers to being going through a down period. If the team cannot turn things around quickly, they might be eliminated in the first round by a 7-seeded team and avoiding Chicago in the second round will not matter.

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