The Indiana Pacers spent the weeks and months leading to the 2009-2010 NBA regular-season opener talking about defense.
Maybe they should have focused on not turning the ball over instead.
Danny Granger, the Pacers’ All-Star forward, scored a team-high 31 points despite a sore heel, but 25 turnovers and a not-so-improved defensive performance offset what was often a solid offensive evening in a 120-109 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in front 17,998 of at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Ga.
“I don’t really know how many turnovers we had, but I know that’s the reason that we lost this game,” said Granger, who was listed as questionable before the game with a sore heel and – according to Pacers.com – received treatment on the heel throughout the game.
“When you turn the ball over that many times in this league, you’re not going to win. It definitely led to more possessions for the Hawks tonight. We were already having trouble stopping them, and this made the game that much harder.
“When the other team has the ball many more times than you, that’s pretty much the recipe for a loss.”
The Pacers, who have missed the playoffs three consecutive seasons, shot 53.4 percent from the floor – slightly better than the Hawks’ 52.9 — but they had 14 more turnovers than the Hawks’ 11.
The Pacers last season were ranked 27th in the NBA in points allowed (108.2) and 21st in field goal percentage allowed (.473) on the road last season, according to Pacers.com.
On Wednesday, they allowed .529 shooting.
“It’s going to be the same as last year unless we decide we want to play defense,” Pacers F Troy Murphy told Indianapols Star Pacers writer Mike Wells. “We have to really take care of that.”
“It was an interesting game, especially in the first half,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “Our shots were definitely falling, and that gave us confidence. Danny played big for us, which is what we expect from him. I think what really helped (the Hawks) tonight was all of the turnovers. You can’t do that against good teams like Atlanta.
“I expected the pace to be fast. This is the kind of pace that I like to play at what we planned for. I think we did a great job getting up and down the court, but we didn’t expect to have 25 turnovers, which was the key to the game. Besides the turnovers, tonight’s pace was definitely the pace we plan to play at.”
Indiana, which went 11-30 on the road last season, allowed 106.2 points per game last season, 26th worst in the NBA. They entered the game focused on defense, and according to NBA.com writer Matt Winkeljohn, “the drawing board in their locker room before the game, literally, the first several preaching points all related to D: Pressure the ball, think deflections, contest every shot.”
Indiana finished the game with one steal while Atlanta registered 16 and held a 32-13 advantage in points off turnovers.
“Even more alarming than the defense was the 25 turnovers,” Granger told NBA.com. “We actually shot a better percentage than they did and lost by 11.
The Pacers, after leading much of the first half, trailed 66-65 at halftime, then trailed 81-71 midway through the third quarter. Indiana then rallied to tie the game 98-98 early in the fourth quarter and took a 101-100 lead on a 3-point field goal by G Earl Watson with 9:04 remaining.
The lead was Indiana’s first of the second half. It also was the last.
The Hawks held Indiana to four points in a seven-and-a-half minute stretch, turning a one-point deficit into a 117-105 lead with 48:9 seconds remaining. During the first six minutes of that stretch, Indiana scored one point, after which the Pacers trailed, 112-102.
According to Winkeljohn, during the span, Granger traveled, Indiana C Roy Hibbert had a turnover, Watson had an errant pass, G Dahntay Jones had a turnover and G Troy Murphy did, too.
“That’s what was so disappointing,” Granger told NBA.com. “A lot of times we just threw the ball out of bounds or miscommunicated with our teammates.
The Pacers will play the Miami Heat at Conseco Fieldhouse Friday at 8 p.m. in the 2009-2010 home opener. The Pacers played without F Tyler Hansbrough and F Mike Dunleavy.
Watson had 20 points and Jones had 17, with the Pacers’ reserves scoring 49 points. Murphy had 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
“We expected this to be a tough game,” Pacers F Solomon Jones said. “They’ve become one of the better teams in the East, so you have to be prepared when you play them. Because we had too many turnovers tonight, we didn’t put ourselves in a good position to win.”
* Indianapolis Star Pacers writer Mike Wells’ game story. Here.
* Sekou Smith’s game story for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Here.
* Associated Press game story. Here.
* Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows weighs in. Here.
* TrueHoop’s John Hollinger weighs in. Here.
* Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Mark Bradley’s column. Here.