Pacers better figure it out soon
If No. 1 seed can't counter Hawks in Game 6, its season will stunningly end
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel rarely stops thinking about the next game or the next practice. That's why it wouldn't be surprising if he's spent the majority of his time since Monday's Game 5 loss to the Atlanta Hawks looking at video clips and wearing his thumb out from constantly pressing play, stop, rewind and play again on the remote control as he tries to keep the Pacers' season alive.
Vogel has no choice but to figure it out.
Win on Thursday and Indiana forces a Game 7 at home Saturday. Lose, and the top-seeded Pacers will complete one of the biggest collapses in NBA history.
Stick with the traditional starting lineup that features Roy Hibbert at center?
Or even throw a twist into it by starting West at center and playing little-used Chris Copeland at power forward?
It's really not about gimmicks or strategies with Indiana. The Pacers are more talented than the Hawks. You just can't tell by their effort.
That's been the case for almost two months now, and that's why the Pacers are in their current position.
"There's no quit in this team," Vogel said. "Hasn't been all year, and our backs are against the wall. [We] have to come out fighting."
Fight is something the Pacers haven't consistently done -- outside of the one involving Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner in practice -- of late. That's why they trailed by as many as 30 points to the Hawks in Game 5, and that's why they need to win another game in Atlanta to extend their season.
"The pressure is on them," West said about the Hawks. "We have to go into their building loose, confident. We just have to play and muck the game, make it dirty. We have to do whatever we have to do to force a Game 7."
Basically, the Pacers have to play the same way they did during the first half of the season, when they looked like a title-contending team.
Indiana has allowed the Hawks to dictate the series with their style of play. Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer's offense, similar to what is run by the San Antonio Spurs, has the Pacers scrambling out to shooters and getting frustrated over defensive breakdowns.
"They do a great job," West said. "[We have to] work a little harder to guard them than they do us because of the constant movement. They don't hold the ball. They cut. There's constant flow to how they play. They mimic what San Antonio does, and it's a style that has been successful in the NBA."
The Pacers aren't used to having their opponent determine how the game is played. That's not Vogel's approach. Hibbert's series-long struggles on both ends have forced Vogel to adapt his strategy in an attempt to match up with Atlanta.
"It's a two-part thing," Vogel said. "Sticking to who we are typically involves one of our bigs battling with a 3-point shooter. This situation involves two of our bigs having to battle a 3-point shooter. It's a far more difficult task for a 7-footer to run out there.
"It creates a lot more problems even when he gets out there, freeing the rim up. That's why it's such a challenge."
Vogel is staying coy on his lineup for Game 6. You can expect Copeland to be part of the rotation. He was only 2-of-7 from the field in his 20 minutes, but he was able to defend Atlanta's big men on the perimeter, and having him in the game on offense allowed the Pacers to spread the court -- the same way the Hawks do -- to open up driving lanes.
The adjustments Vogel plans to make won't mean anything Thursday if his players don't play like their season is on the line.
"I really believe, in a seven-game playoff series, the team that lost the most recent game has the advantage," Vogel said. "We have to have the mindset that we're going to make the adjustments we need to make and come in with a greater hunger and try and get Game 6."
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