By John Hollinger
ATLANTA – It’s a simple concept, really: get the rebound, throw it to a guard, and run.
Unfortunately, the Pacers were so focused on the “and run” part on Wednesday that they glossed over “throw it to a guard” on several occasions. Indiana made a whopping 25 turnovers in a frenetic 120-109 loss to the Hawks, and by my count at least six of them came in the backcourt while trying to advance the ball upcourt.
Each time, an Indiana player rebounded the ball and tried to throw it ahead to T.J. Ford or Earl Watson to push it upcourt. Each time, a Hawks defender was sitting on the outlet pass and pried the ball away from the Pacers. Except once, that is, when an unguarded Ford lost a pass from Murphy out of bounds right in front of the Pacer bench as the game slipped away late in the fourth quarter.
“We talked about that before the game,” said Pacers coach Jim O’Brien. “They cheat back, so everybody has to be an outlet. We never picked up on that, for whatever reason."
Indy's interceptions ruined a superb shooting night when their breakneck pace – once they managed to get the ball into the frontcourt – had the Hawks on their heels for three quarters. Atlanta stumbled into the break leading 66-65 after a wild first half in which Indiana shot 63.2%, but still found itself trailing thanks to 14 turnovers and some permissive defense.
“We have to take care of the basketball," said O'Brien. "It’s been the mantra from day one. We think we can score the ball on people, but you have to take care of the ball and you have to defend it, and tonight we didn’t do either.”