Vogel likely to rest starters down stretch of regular season.
Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel has conceded that his biggest priority now is to get his team back playing good basketball rather than targeting the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Since beating the Miami Heat on March 26 to take a three-game lead at the top of the standings in the East, Indiana have lost four of five to fall a half-game behind their rivals after leading the way for so long in the season.
Vogel gave all five Pacers starters the day off on Tuesday after reports emerged that Paul George and David West asked to be rested ahead of the post-season, and speaking ahead of the Heat’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night he admitted that he wants his players fresh.
“We’re two games back [in the loss column] right now,” Vogel told The Indianapolis Star, as reported by ESPN.
“Obviously it was a goal, it is a goal of ours, but at this point, playing well is our top priority. Part of that is being fresh going into the playoffs.
“We feel good if we have the No. 2 seed, and we still feel we can attain the goals we have. I think rest and healing up is part of the solution. It’s not the whole solution, but it’s part of it,” he added.
Vogel insisted that his decision to bench center Roy Hibbert during the loss to the Atlanta Hawks was partly made due to the overreaction in the media to his body language, and ultimately the Pacers coach is looking out for his players as they reach the business end of the year.
While some experts have suggested that such a slump before the playoffs could have a catastrophic impact in terms of their ambitions to win an NBA championship, Vogel believes he has found some sort of solution that can help get his team back playing at a high level.
With such a small lead the Heat are still not guaranteed to finish in that top spot, and in addition the two Eastern giants will meet again before the regular season concludes with their last meeting taking place on Friday night.