Posts Tagged ‘Rasual Butler’

Pacers need a lift from their bench

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: GameTime’s crew previews Game 4 of the Heat-Pacers series

MIAMI — Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

The Indiana Pacers’ starting lineup has outscored the Miami Heat (by 29 points) in its floor time in the Eastern Conference finals. But when the Pacers have had one or more reserves on the floor, they’ve been pretty awful (minus-34). And thus, they’re down 2-1 with a need to get Game 4 on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Yes, this is the same story as we had in last year’s conference finals, when the Pacers’ starters were a plus-49 in seven games and all other Indiana lineups were a minus-77.

With that in mind, reworking the bench was the focus of the Pacers’ summer. They traded for Luis Scola and signed C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland. But in the regular season, lineups that included at least one reserve were only slightly better (plus-2.0 points per 100 possessions) than they were last season (plus-1.8).

In February, the Pacers signed Andrew Bynum and traded Danny Granger for Evan Turner, moves that somehow threw their starters in a funk. They’ve been better in the postseason, but the bench is back to bringing the Pacers down.

The playoff numbers aren’t as bad as they were last season, but Indiana lineups with at least one reserve on the floor have been pretty dreadful offensively and have been outscored by 4.4 points per 100 possessions in 16 games. In this series, they’ve been awful on both ends of the floor and have been outscored by 30.3.

Scola scored eight straight points in the second quarter on Saturday, but has shot 2-for-11 otherwise. Ian Mahinmi has played just 23 minutes in three games. Turner has played just three, and managed to dribble straight into a triple-team upon entering Game 3. Watson has the worst plus-minus (minus-31 in 58 minutes) in the series.

The only reserve that hasn’t hurt the Pacers in this series is Rasual Butler. Meanwhile, the Heat have gotten lifts from Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole and Rashard Lewis, all of whom have been trusted and empowered much more than anyone on Indiana’s bench.

That’s why some of this has to come back on Pacers coach Frank Vogel. In a sprint for the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage (which they lost in Game 2) from the start of the season, the Pacers weren’t willing to sacrifice games to develop their bench. Over the last two seasons, the Indiana starting lineup has played almost twice as many minutes (3,429) as any other lineup in the league.

Part of that is health. They’ve been fortunate that none of their starters have missed more than eight games in either season.

Part of it is dependence. When the starters are much better than the reserves, teams tend to stick with them for longer minutes.

But part of it is a lack of foresight. Scola, Watson and Mahinmi had regular roles during the season, but guys like Copeland and Butler were basically used in garbage time.

And so, while the Heat can adjust their lineup however they need to according to the matchup or who’s playing well (witness Cole and Allen helping them destroy Indiana in Saturday’s fourth quarter), the Pacers are rather rigid.

When his team is struggling to match up with Miami’s small lineup in transition and David West is chasing Allen around multiple screens, there’s little Vogel can do. He isn’t going to take West off the floor, because he’s his most stable and dependable player. If he benches Roy Hibbert, Vogel has lost his rim protection against the best rim attacker in the league.

Foul trouble is another problem. With George Hill and Paul George forced to sit extra minutes in Game 3, the Pacers’ defense didn’t hold up. Lance Stephenson was forced to play all of the final three quarters and looked gassed as the Heat pulled away in the fourth.

In its last six wins, Miami has outscored its opponents in the fourth quarter by an average score of 26.5-19.5. The Heat haven’t been superb all game, every game, but they get it done when they need to.

Might the Pacers’ starters be able to hang with the champs better in the fourth quarter if their reserves had given them a little more production and rest earlier in the game?

That question may still linger if Indiana doesn’t turn this series back around on Monday. To do that, they’ll need more production from the bench.

Pacers got their ‘different Roy Hibbert’ in Game 2, and so did Wizards

By Steve Aschburner,

VIDEO: Hibbert steps up with 28 points to lead Pacers to Game 2 win


INDIANAPOLIS – They came for an intervention and stayed for a basketball game, a performance from the Indiana Pacers that was as much about chasing the demons away from Roy Hibbert as it was about beating the Washington Wizards in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Without the former, there was going to be a slim chance at the latter, considering how balled up Hibbert and his Pacers teammates and the fans and the city’s media had gotten over the Indiana big man’s eerie drop in confidence and effectiveness. What the 18,165 in the stands at Bankers Life Fieldhouse got, in a massive session of group therapy, were 28 points and nine rebounds from Hibbert and an 86-82 victory that kept the flames of June at least flickering.

David [West, Pacers teammate] was talking to me about being the person who rescues yourself when you’re in the middle of the ocean,” a subdued Hibbert said afterward. “There’s nobody that can throw a life raft or a rope out to help you, so I got to do it myself.”

That wasn’t quite it. Hibbert did have to look inward to pull off his bad-Hollywood script of a game. But no way, no how did he do it by himself. The house was his. His teammates were eager to serve him, not with any specific play-calling from coach Frank Vogel but by seeing him and rewarding him with the ball when he got and held some position against Wizards’ big men Nene and Marcin Gortat.

“When they try to get the ball into me sometimes, it takes a lot of time off the shot clock,” Hibbert said. “Coach and myself talked at great length after the last game – I was in his office for like an hour, we chit-chatted – and I told him you don’t need to call plays for me. I’ll just defend on one end and rebound, block shots, and then I’ll try to be the first big down the court before the defense settles to make a move.”

Hibbert’s college coach at Georgetown, John Thompson III, was in the building to lend support and so was his agent, David Falk, who locked Hibbert up in a pep talk near one baseline moments before tipoff.

And then, on the game’s first possession, the redemption began.

“The ball got tipped around, Lance [Stephenson] threw it to him, he just threw a prayer up and it goes in,” Washington’s Drew Gooden said. “I looked at Andre [Miller] and said, ‘That’s gonna get him going right there.’ ”

Hibbert hit two more shots and scored seven points in the first quarter. By halftime, he had 17.

“You’d see a loose ball get to him with one second on the shot clock,” Washington point guard John Wall groused, “and he’d make a jump shot.”

It was that sort of evening, overdue and impossible to overdo.

“I felt that I put a lot of pressure on myself to get going,” Hibbert said. “I think I was making a lot of excuses the second half of the season and then into the playoffs. So I decided to take it into my own hands and change things around.”

An All-Star through the season’s first half, the 7-foot-2 Hibbert sputtered and swooned after that as if someone had slipped Kryptonite into his compression shorts. In seven first-round games against Atlanta and the opener of this series Monday, he no-showed in four. Three times, he went scoreless, getting up a total of five shots. Five times he managed three or fewer rebounds. We could go on, but the ugliest numbers got plenty of play, his points and rebounds vying with Flounder‘s GPA: Zero-point-zero.

The sniping locally and nationally at Hibbert’s game, his manhood, his psyche reached epic, withering proportions. Social media was crammed with barbs, Photoshop wit and memes of meanness.

“People have been piling on Roy,” West said. “He’s very aware. So that’s been a part of this thing. We’ve told him to try to unplug himself from that. And he’s tried, he’s worked on it. But you can’t help but hear the criticism.

“Our message to him has been encouragement. When he plays well, we’re a better team. There’s no other way to put it.”

Actually, West and reserve Rasual Butler reportedly aired out Hibbert behind closed doors Monday after his hollow performance in Game 1. Their anger apparently was tinged with enough desperation and empathy to nudge Hibbert toward his Game 2. Outgoing in good or average times, Hibbert “probably said five words” around his teammates at practice Tuesday. When they gathered for shootaround Wednesday morning, he was quiet again.

“I don’t know about ‘tough love,’ ” Butler said, staying coy after the game. “It’s brotherly love.”

Hibbert got a dose of that, too, from Paul George, his All-Star teammate. Some of the speculation about the Pacers’ splintering chemistry has focused on those two, but a day on the lake met that head-on.

“I fiercely believe the biggest person who helped me out here was Paul,” Hibbert said. “Yesterday after practice, he invited me out on his boat. We fished for about two hours and just relaxed. And didn’t talk about basketball. Just talked about life and trying to catch some bass.

“He reached out and got my mind off things, and this is hopefully something I can build on. He’s a great teammate. So I really do appreciate him reaching out. Because he didn’t have to.”

Frankly, they all had to. Even if the Pacers could manage to beat the Wizards a time or two with Hibbert in full funk, Washington isn’t Atlanta. There would be no advancing if Indiana suddenly went doughnut, losing his defensive presence and at least perceived threat he poses at the other end.

As it was, with Hibbert rolling, Washington had the lead with less than five minutes left. Wall and Bradley Beal went a little haywire around the 3-minute mark, down 82-79, chucking up three unnecessary 3-pointers. Indiana perked up defensively to close out, even though the Wizards – losing on the road for the first time after a 4-0 start to this postseason – head home with confidence.

Hibbert just had more for the 48 minutes they all played Wednesday.

Can he repeat it Friday and Sunday in D.C., back home (he went to Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda, Md.)? The Wizards spoke of resetting their defense to account for him more properly. But no one from either side was promising anything.

“Every game, we’re expecting him to have an impact,” West said, beating the encouragement drum. “[Expecting] him to play his game and play well, regardless of what he’s done previously.

“I just thought his body language was a little different. When it was all said and done, I thought he took probably as much as he could take, in terms of people’s criticism. And I just thought he made it up in his mind that he was going to respond and have a big game.”

VIDEO: Roy Hibbert talks about his big game, leading Pacers to win

Suspensions for Pacers’ Butler, George?

By Sekou Smith,

VIDEO: Mike Scott and George Hill scuffle in the second quarter of Game 6 between the Pacers and Hawks

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Indiana Pacers will host Game 7 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Saturday. But it remains to be seen if their biggest star, All-Star swingman Paul George, will be a part of the action.

Both George and reserve forward Rasual Butler stepped off of the bench and onto the court during a second quarter scuffle between George Hill and Atlanta Hawks reserve forward Mike Scott in the Pacers’ Game 6 win Thursday night at Philips Arena.

At least one expert on the topic, former NBA vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson, believes a suspension is forthcoming for someone …

Hill and Scott drew technical fouls for their shoving match. George and Butler took small steps but remained in the bench area. But the league has historically held players to the letter of the law in these cases.

The rule states that “during an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their bench. Violators will be suspended, without pay, for a minimum of one game and fined up to $50,000.”

Jackson was the man who handed out one-game suspensions in the 2007 playoffs when then Phoenix Suns big men Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw left the “immediate vicinity of their bench” after Robert Horry body blocked Steve Nash into the scorer’s table in Game 4 of a series between the Suns and San Antonio Spurs.

“The rule with respect to leaving the bench area during an altercation is very clear,” Jackson said then. “Historically, if you break it, you will get suspended, regardless of what the circumstances are.”

Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he wasn’t worried about it after Game 6.

“I haven’t seen (the video), but somebody told me about it,” he said. “I’m not concerned with any suspensions until we hear something.”