We will start with this playoff series, because, well, that is recent memory. I wrote a piece last week on match ups, and I am going to hold firm by what I said in that piece. Whenever 2 teams play, there are 2 things at play, the matchup between personnel and the match up between strategies. What decides games when the 2 are both very different is who can force the other team to play their style... and who can adapt. The Pacers are a grind it out team. Their defense is built around having Roy Hibbert clogging up the paint. Through the first 4 games of the this series, it became abundantly clear that with the line up that the Hawks have, that Hibbert couldn't plant himself just outside of the paint and react. When he does that, the sharp shooting bigs of the Hawks knocked down 15+ ft shots like it was nothing. The result? Jeff Teague having his way in games 1 and 3 and parts of games 2 and 4. While I fully believe if this Pacers win an NBA title it will be in large part due to Roy Hibbert, I also believe that he is more of a hindrance than a help in this series. In game 4, down the stretch we saw Vogel running out a line up with both West and Scola in the line up rather than Hibbert and Mahnimi. While this is a great move by Vogel to make this adjustment it almost came to late in the series. If the Hawks want to run out a lineup of guys under 6'8" then the Pacers need to A) absolutely dominate inside, B) go small and be able to better contain them, or C) Both. In games 1-3 we saw the Pacers go with option D) none of the above. When Roy and Ian are in the game, the Pacers should be absolutely pounding the ball inside and taking advantage of the size advantage. This may not always mean layups by Roy, but forcing the Hawks to double team the big men will open up shooters and cutters, and the Indiana big men are known to be some of the best passers in the league, and it will also allow the Pacers to draw more fouls, which the 2 early second half fouls on Millsap proved to be huge in the outcome of game 4. While Frank has used some slightly different rotations featuring Watson and Hill on the court at the same time, why not take that a step further and put Paul George at the 4 for stretches of the game? I am not advocating this be a full time strategy, but right now we have seen strong games by Watson and Turner be a big part of staying in games 2 and 4, why not put one of them on the floor with Stephenson, Hill, PG and west or Scola for a few minutes. Considering the Pacers are big at every position that may cause some issues for the Hawks and also help the Pacers better defend this very quick Atlanta team. I also want to see more of the West Scola line up... that works, lets roll with it. On a somewhat related sidenote. How about you give Cope a chance Frank? The dude has earned it with his play in the 2 games where the bench played essentially the whole game. Yes, he needs a little time to get going, but if you are getting beat by speed and outside shooting, why not give a guy who give you both of those things a chance. The Hawks are going to adjust for game 5, might be a good time to come up with some adjustments of your own.
Now, I will say this, Frank is loyal to his players, and that is an excellent thing. He has their trust and support and that says a lot about how things are going to go. The soccer fans in the room need only look at David Moyes short tenure at Manchester United to see that if the players aren't buying what you are selling, the job gets that much harder. But news came out of the Pacers camp that coach Frank Vogel lit up the team for the first time on Friday after going down 2-1 in the series on Thursday. Yeah you heard that right, he laid into them for the first time all year. Now I am a very nice guy, almost to a fault at times, but I know there is a time and a place for everything. And Vogel should have been laying into this team over a month ago when the Pacers were... well a hot mess. Now, I know he doesn't want to lose his team, but these are also grown men, and having a bunch of underachieving players who love you isn't going to keep you in a job for much longer than a bunch of players who respect you, and may not always like you, but are successful (Ask Bob Knight). There is a time and place for everything, and while you may not want to yell and scream at your guys, if the time calls for it, and it definitely did before game 4, then you have to do it. I just hope he doesn't hold back too long again and allow guys to make excuses that they can believe as they coast all the way to the end of the regular season.
All of that aside. I still think Vogel is a great coach. But as a coach, there are a lot of coaches out there who I do and will disagree with about how they handle a situation. That does not mean I do not think highly of them. All I know is anything less than a matchup in the conference finals should be considered a let down by the fans of the Pacers and the NBA and why I don't think that this is all Vogel's fault or that he should be fired, I do believe he, like his players needs to step up his game right now or their goal of a deep playoff run will fall short.
Thanks for reading,
-T.O. signing out.