I've dogged Bender amost since day 1. But, I will admit that I liked the game that he played tonight.
And it had nothing to do with points. He's a streaky shooter that on occassion is capable of scoring points in bunches. That's his value right now, and that's the easy part.
But tonight I saw him explode on cuts into the lane, and saw him maintain fairly good position defensively on his man. I even saw him screening for other players a couple of times.
Regardless of whether he scores 20 points, or doesn't even score at all, these are the things that he absolutely must do every single game. It is far more important for him to show consistency in those areas than in the points that he scores.
With Artest's injury, I think Bender will get his chance closing out the regular season. He and Croshere have probably become the two most critical players on this team, because suddenly it is a must that they both step up their games and contribute off the bench.
With the opportunity though, comes a certain risk to Bender. If he can stay healthy, he'll probably see 15 or more minutes per game. And if he does, and still does not produce, I don't think the Pacers will hold him until next season. In other words, his opportunity is NOW, not later. It's time to produce or get off the pot.