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Frank Vogel errs by readily sitting George Hill, Lance Stephenson with foul trouble

May 31, 2013, 8:30 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Game Four Getty Images

George Hill picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and after he hit a technical free throw on his way to the bench (thanks to jawing between Mario Chalmers, David West and Udonis Haslem), the Pacers led by two points.

By the time Hill returned five minutes later, Indiana trailed by eight points and wouldn’t lead again.

Of course, Hill finished with just four fouls.

Frank Vogel made a high-profile mistake by sitting Roy Hibbert at the end of Game 1, and the Pacers coach erred again while handling his players’ foul trouble in Game 5. Make no mistake, Vogel has done an excellent job this series, devising a gameplan that has challenged the Heat and hitting the right motivational notes. But that doesn’t make him immune to strategic mistakes.

Lance Stephenson picked up his second foul just two and a half minutes into the game, and Vogel pulled him for Sam Young. Though the Pacers built a lead with Young in the game, he didn’t play very well, and it stands to reason Indiana would have fared better with Stephenson (even though hindsight says Stephenson had a poor game). But Vogel self-imposed a penalty by inserting Young. Stephenson committed three fouls in the game’s final five minutes to foul out, but at that point, the Pacers were effectively out of the game.

Vogel’s more egregious mistake came when Hill committed his fourth foul.

Hill fouls at an extremely low rate – once nearly every 20 minutes during the regular season – and even if he’s more likely to foul against the Heat, the odds of him fouling out were low. Again, Vogel self-imposed a penalty and sat Hill in favor of D.J. Augustin.

These self-imposed penalties are often foolish, but they’re particularly destructive for the Pacers.

Indiana relies heavily on its starting lineup – +26 this series in a slight majority of the available minutes, compared to –45 for all other lineups – so tweaking the rotation allows fewer minutes for Hill, Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert to share the court. In Game 5, the Pacers’ starters played much less together than any other game of the series:

  • Game 1: 28 minutes
  • Game 2: 29 minutes
  • Game 3: 26 minutes
  • Game 4: 24 minutes
  • Game 5: 16 minutes

It’s not just that Indiana’s starters are better than its reserves – though they are – but that Indiana’s starters work so well together. Even when four starters play together, the Pacers are just –16 in 40 minutes this series.

In Game 5, a lineup with Augustin replacing Hill and the rest of the starters was –8 in five minutes.

The biggest problems came defensively, where Augustin – who played a more minutes than any Indiana reserve this series – often didn’t stick close to his man or, when he did, wasn’t big enough to disrupt him.

Probably by the Heat’s design, Indiana’s point guards spent a decent amount of time guarding LeBron James, who set screens for Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole to begin pick-and-rolls. Any switch or hedge that involved Augustin guarding LeBron or preventing the ball from reaching LeBron didn’t work too well. Chalmers had his success with Augustin, too.

These aren’t easy matchups for Hill, either, but he’s a much better defender – and a much better fit with the Pacers’ preferred lineup. Next time, Vogel shouldn’t rush to sacrifice that.

  1. dexterismyhero - May 31, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Are you a Heat homer or what? What team doesn’t rely heavily on their starting lineup?

    • hehateme2 - May 31, 2013 at 10:03 AM

      No fool, he simply stated that the pacers have no bench. There are clearly not ready fro prime time with such a lack of offense and coaching.

      • jkwiq - May 31, 2013 at 10:16 AM

        Hehateme, is that supposed to be a compliment to the Heat that are struggling with this depth-less Pacers team?

        The Spurs are laughing and licking their chops to play the Heat. LOL

      • stlouis1baseball - May 31, 2013 at 10:48 AM

        With a lack of offense and “coaching?” Dude…you need to do your homework.
        Take a look at what the Pacers have done since Frank Vogel replaced Jim O’Brien.
        Once you do so…get back to me. Otherwise…I seriously question your knowledge of the game of basketball.

      • jswang3 - May 31, 2013 at 10:57 AM

        @jkwiq Just because the Pacers play the Heat close doesn’t mean the Spurs will. Let’s remember the same Heat team beat Oklahoma last year when Westbrook was healthy but the Spurs lost in 6 to them by loosing 4 straight.
        Different teams play each other differently. The Spurs don’t have as many mismatches as th Pacers do over the Heat.

      • justinnoah - May 31, 2013 at 1:14 PM

        How can you make that type of comment about the Pacers? Lest we forget, they’re playing in the Eastern Conf finals and still have a legit chance to win the series. I do agree the Pacers bench needs some help, but their offense seems just fine given where they’re at today and without Vogel, this team wouldn’t have made the playoffs 3 years straight, and being the #3 seed two years in a row. Vogel is a great coach who makes mistakes, like all coaches, even the very best.

  2. skids003 - May 31, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    Tremendous Monday morning quarterbacking!!

  3. bigbenh8tr - May 31, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    Doesn’t take a genius to know that Vogel can’t coach under pressure when he doesn’t have time to analyze what is going on. I would not want my team looking for him as a coach if I wanted to win a championship. I guess we can just give him the excuse we gave the Thunder the year before last when they didn’t make it to the finals that lack of experience caused this. This series should be 3-2 Pacers, but Vogel just had to GIVE game 1 to the Heat by sitting the best center in the playoffs in crunch time.

  4. ProBasketballPundit - May 31, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    EXACTLY! It’s a self-imposed penalty when coaches bench their players with foul trouble. It’s so moronic that I can’t believe it’s still happening. What’s better, the slight chance that your player might foul out and you don’t have them at the end of the game or the DEFINITE chance that you’ll lose those minutes anyway because you bench your player? I’ve never understood why coaches don’t ride it out and let the law of averages work its magic. Problem is, Spoelstra does the same thing.

  5. redskins2007 - May 31, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    Really! Seriously! The only thing Frank Vogel erred in was not taking Lance Stephenson out earlier. Don’t get me wrong I love the energy that Stephenson brings to the court but at the moment he is turnover waiting to happen and his constant trash talking just tends to motivate the Heat. He is wildly inconsistent from the perimeter and is easily baited in taking ill advised shots.
    It’s no mystery that the Pacers are an inside out team and for West, Hibbert, and George to be effective they have to have someone other than Hill keeping Heat honest. They don’t even guard Young or Stephenson out to the three point line. I say give Orlando Johnson an opportunity. He is streaky but he is much more of a legitimate threat than either of the Pacers other two options. Johnson’s defense is suspect at best which is why I’m sure his minutes have declined since the regular season ended but hey, nobody else is stopping Wade or Lebron anyway. Pacers, you have nothing to lose.

    • justinnoah - May 31, 2013 at 4:48 PM

      I agree that Lance is a streaky player and sometimes can hurt the team, but we need him on the floor as much as possible. I don’t think we win the series with him on the bench.

      Lance is a future all-star if he gets more consistent with his shot and better channels his emotions. He’s got all the tools and you can’t say that about every player. The kid has game.

  6. kinggw - May 31, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    This story makes no sense. The author acts as if Vogel had a choice. Hill played 37 minutes, Stephenson played 28 minutes. They had 5 points, 6 turnovers, and 10 fouls between them.

    If they played a few more minutes it wasnt going to change the outcome of the game. In fact, Hill’s play helped to start the run that put Miami up for good. Every team has their weaknesses. For Miami, its their size. For Indiana, its their lack of a quality point guard and depth. Those minutes where Stephenson and Hill werent on the floor did not decide the game. This is simply piling on Vogel for no reason.

    • justinnoah - May 31, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      As a Pacers fan, I appreciate some of you sticking up for Vogel. I agree he didn’t have much choice. But I do think that the game totally changed when Hill went to the bench with his 4th foul… no doubt about it.

      And even in game 4 when Lance picked up his 5th foul, that’s when Miami went on their run to nearly steal that game.

      In my opinion, Indiana’s starting five is better than Miami’s starting five and Indiana wins the series if their starting five doesn’t get into foul trouble the next two games.

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