AL HAMNIK: Vogel, Pacers seek 'sustainability'

2014-03-24T19:00:00Z 2014-03-25T19:37:18Z AL HAMNIK: Vogel, Pacers seek 'sustainability'Al Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
March 24, 2014 7:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Frank Vogel is just too calm.

His Indiana Pacers, who began Monday as the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a three-game lead over the Miami Heat, have sputtered lately like a poorly-tuned engine.

They had lost six of their previous 11 games, were held to a season-low 71 points by Memphis on Saturday, and had All-Star forward Paul George searching for his shot.

Last week, alone, George had games of 4 of 14, 4 of 17, 3 of 13 and 2 of 10.

Any colder and he'd need an ice scraper.

Yet, there was Vogel before Monday's tip-off against the Bulls, still smiling like a guy who held four aces and the deed to your house.

As for Indiana being fatigued or bored with the third-best record in the NBA, bite your tongue.

"It's an 82-game season and there's going to be a stretch like this in every 82-game season that you have," Vogel said.

Look at the two-time champion Heat if you don't believe him. They had allowed 100.1 points and 47.5 percent shooting in their last 11 games, losing seven.

"Hopefully, we get out of it before they do," Vogel said of his team's funk. "When you have the Miami Heat right on your tail, there isn't any boredom.

"I think it's just sustainability of execution and effort, really, that we need."

George is the league's No. 11 scorer at 21.9 ppg. and the Pacers' top gun in 41 of their 70 games.

And, no, he's not on the downside of his career. Sorry, Bulls fans.

"He's just a little bit out of rhythm, trying to find air space," Vogel said "Our screening hasn't been very good by our other players, so it's a matter of getting him open.

"If he's not getting open looks, he's not going to shoot a high percentage, so it's not all Paul George."

Vogel said while all games are important, it's difficult to get a "feel" for an opponent when playing stiffs (my word) like Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

The Pacers have now joined the conversation regarding legitimate NBA contenders and much of the credit goes to Vogel, 40, who quickly has become one of the league's top coaches with the blessing of team president Larry Bird.

"I don't feel pressure. I just try to focus on the task at hand," Vogel said. "Every game means something and I care a lot about pulling my own weight in terms of what this whole group is trying to accomplish."

That would be the 2014 NBA title.

Oddsmakers have the Pacers meeting someone from the insanely-talented West.

They have the No. 1 defense.

Opponents are shooting a league-low 48.6 percent less than 10 feet from the basket, compliments of 7-foot-2 rim protector Roy Hibbert.

They've held 12 teams under 80 points, best in the NBA.

And they have depth, going 25-6 when their bench equals or outscores its counterpart.

Now, if they can just wake up Paul George.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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