This time, the coach sought to explain his team's woeful ranking in the bench scoring statistic. At 26.1 points per game, Indiana ranks 28th in the NBA in points contributed by reserves.
According to Pacers.com's Scott Agness, Vogel considers that stat to be extremely misleading:
We’re 28th in bench scoring because we have such a good starting five. That’s why. It’s not because of the bench. It’s because we play our starters heavy minutes. They’ve had health, OK. It’s such a misleading stat because a lot of those bench teams that are not 28th, they have three starters out for half the season so their bench guys are playing starter’s minutes. On top of that, I stagger my rotations so I always have two or three starters out there that we typically run the offense through.
Vogel might have a point. Even if the reserves haven't contributed many points, it hasn't exactly shown in the standings. Not only do the Pacers have the best record in the Eastern Conference, but the only two teams behind them in the bench points rankings—the Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers—are both playoff contenders.
Furthermore, raw points may not be the best way to gauge the performance of a team's reserves. Hoopstats uses a metric that measures the difference in efficiency ratings between the starters and reserves, and in that measurement, the Pacers rank 18th—not great, but certainly not terrible.
A great deal of Indiana's bench problems have stemmed from the recent poor performance of big man Luis Scola, who leads all Pacer reserves in scoring. Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star attributed Scola's struggles to injury:
But the accurate mid-range jumper he showed off early this season largely had gone missing. He shot just 36 percent from the field (27-for-73) during 12 February games, in part due to a sore right elbow. Scola said the elbow's condition has improved greatly and he's been fine for about two weeks.
If Scola cannot regain his early season form, Indiana will have to rely more on new additions Andrew Bynum and Evan Turner. Bynum had a sterling Pacer debut in Tuesday's win, with eight points and 10 rebounds. But given his lengthy history of knee problems, he is not going to be a sure thing.
Turner has proven surprisingly efficient for Indiana in his first nine games, scoring 9.3 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting. But that shooting percentage is well above his career average, so there's no guarantee he will keep that up.
No matter what happens for the Pacers, they still have two important factors in their favor: A young starting five capable of playing big minutes, and a few intriguing options on the bench. The Pacers only need of the Turner-Bynum-Scola trio is to provide true sixth-man numbers off the bench—their starters and defense should take care of the rest.