The Indiana Pacers' late-season swoon has taken another surprising turn. All five starters will sit out when the team faces the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday, coach Frank Vogel announced:
All five #Pacers starters will sit tonight in Milwaukee— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) April 9, 2014
#Pacers will start: Donald Sloan, Evan Turner, Rasual Butler, Luis Scola & Ian Mahinmi. CJ Watson is back but will play limited mins— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) April 9, 2014
The decision was made even though the Pacers are just half a game behind the Miami Heat for first place in the Eastern Conference. It's especially surprising given the team's very public goal of going all out for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. As Vogel told SBNation.com's Paul Flannery in December:
"Every night we're playing for home-court advantage.
"We really feel like every night we're playing for a championship," Vogel said. "A lot of teams can't say that about their regular-season nights. There's a lot of ‘Just Another Night's' in the NBA. But not with our team."
But the tide has turned now that the Pacers have lost their stranglehold on the East's No. 1 seed. Multiple starters have reportedly asked Vogel for additional rest to prepare for the postseason in recent days. The Pacers canceled practice Monday, and Roy Hibbert was the only starter to hit the floor Tuesday. Vogel told reporters that this move is an attempt to get the team back on track:
#Pacers coach Frank Vogel on resting starters in MKE: "We want to try to get the starters on track by getting their legs back under them...— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) April 9, 2014
Vogel later added that the move was just for one game and that all five starters will play in a critical game against the Miami Heat Friday.
Once a shoo-in for the best record in the East, the Pacers have lost eight of their last 11 games. They trailed by 32 points at halftime at home in their latest game, a 107-88 loss to potential first-round opponent Atlanta.