Possession of the ball is nine tenths of the loss.
The Indiana Pacers opened the 2009-10 NBA season with a frustrating loss on the road to the Atlanta Hawks, 120-109. The Hawks are a talented squad fighting to move closer to the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. For the Pacer to beat the Hawks on the road, they needed to shoot the ball well, a huge foul disparity and minimize mistakes.
Well, the Pacers shot the ball well (53.4%) and made ten three pointers, so that wasn't the problem. The Pacers did commit 26 fouls, but the Hawks had 25 and the both finished with 21 points from the line. So far so good, right?
Yeah, well about that minimize mistakes part. This is where the bulk of the blame shifts for this loss. The Pacers finished the game with 25 turnovers which the Hawks cashed in for more than 30 points. Absolutely mind numbing.
Late in the first half, the Pacers were shooting 66%, but were only up one thanks to the turnovers. Don't think about pinning these donations on the fast pace of play either. Not when so many were handed over in the half court on poor passes. And by poor passes I mean literally and A to B pass on the perimeter. The passer didn't account for the defense and the player receiving the pass didn't move to the ball.
Josh Smith was the main culprit for the Hawks with 5 steals on these poor decisions. He also caused problems after defensive rebounds, always defending the outlet pass. Again, the Pacers repeatedly let him get a hand on the ball by simply not showing any court awareness.
After the jump, more player observations. Plenty of good and bad to digest from this one including the new faces playing some big minutes:
- Let's start at the top, with Danny Granger shaking off a painful heel to pump in 31 points, with five 3-balls. Despite the scoring, Granger didn't seem quite right on the court and he only played 22 minutes. Pretty efficient night for 33 with 31 points on 18 shots in 22 minutes. So to think how long the Pacers hung in there with all of those turnovers and without a full dose of Danny shows some promise to grab onto heading into the home opener. UPDATE: Granger played 34:19 last night. The initial box score shorted him 12 minutes. (thanks, Bret)
- It will take some time to get used to seeing Dahntay Jones and Earl Watson in the playing rotation, but we may see a lot more of them as the season goes on. Both really came to play and made plays. No they weren't perfect, but they laid it on the line. Dahntay in particular was hyper-aggressive even, surprisingly, on the offensive end. In fact, while I appreciate the effort and the 17 points, I'd prefer he toned down the offense a bit. I could do without the possessions where he holds the ball too long trying to force a drive. It worked quite a bit against the Hawks as he found his way to the line, but I can see that being a net negative over the long haul.
- Despite the quibble about Dahntay being TOO aggressive, I'd much rather have that than what Brandon Rush ended up offering tonight. After a decent start and a couple of nice buckets in the lane, Rush wasn't able to rev up his game to match the intensity of the game. After a pair of turnovers where he literally just lost the ball on the dribble, JOB kept him tethered to the bench. Won't be surprised to see Dahntay starting on Friday.
- Troy Murphy put up some big numbers with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists, but as mentioned above, those five turnovers mostly on bad passes were also a factor.
- T.J. Ford played fewer minutes than Earl Watson which could add a little drama depending on how Ford deals with it. Ironically, Ford didn't turn the ball over, but Watson was a better match up defensively and was playing well so JOB stuck with him until Watson was fully worn out.
- Roy Hibbert started strong with 7 first quarter rebounds, but finished with just 6 points and 9 rebounds for the game. Hibbert only had three fouls in his 25 minutes but didn't impact the game much if at all in the second half. Hibbert struggled to keep up with the athletic Al Horford who finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds for the Hawks.
- Joe Johnson had a quiet 25 points for the Hawks, but made all the necessary plays down the stretch during winning time. Other than Granger, the Pacers came up empty looking for options at winning time.