The Indiana Pacers have stated their goal for the regular season is to be the top seed in the Eastern Conference. But on Sunday, the second-place Pacers were overwhelmed by a team still vying for a postseason spot, and cracks in the Pacers' armor are showing publicly.
Following a 107-88 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks that included a franchise-low 23 first-half points and a mass-benching of his starters, Pacers coach Frank Vogel sat Roy Hibbert for the entire second half, saying his All-Star center looked "worn down."
"I considered resting Roy before tonight's game because he looks worn down, he's a 7-2 player that's played every game this year, which is very rare," Vogel said. "He looks to me to be worn down. He's giving good effort, but he looks to me to be worn down."
Hibbert played a season-low 9 minutes and finished 0-for-5 from the field with no points, rebounds or assists.
Hibbert, who has seen a drop in all three categories this season while playing a career-high 30.2 minutes per game, offered no explanation for his benching or his play.
"I got nothing to say," Hibbert told reporters after the team's seventh loss in its last nine games.
"I was surprised just because it's never happened," forward Paul George said about Hibbert's benching, "but it was just a tough matchup for Roy. To have a five-man who can stretch the floor, put the ball on the ground and shoot perimeter shots. It was just a tough cover because Roy's great at protecting the rim and being in the paint and Antic really had him on the perimeter the whole night."
Whether it was a poor matchup or poor play, Hibbert and the Pacers (53-25) have four games, including one against conference-leading Miami, to right the ship before the playoffs start.