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Doug
05-01-2004, 06:34 PM
AP Article via Yahoo (http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=ap-blue-collarpacers&prov=ap&type=lgns)

Pacers take workmanlike approach to winning

By JON KRAWCZYNSKI, Associated Press Writer
May 1, 2004

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Before the start of every home playoff game for the Indiana Pacers, a whistle sounds and the phrase, ``It's time to go to work'' appears on the scoreboard.

It's a fitting slogan for these Pacers, who keep piling up the wins with little glitz and even less fanfare.

Their secret? Good old-fashioned hard work.

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``With as much talent as we have, these guys really bought into a system of being a blue-collar team -- knowing they have to bring their hardhat and lunch pail every day in order to win ballgames,'' assistant coach Mike Brown said. ``It's amazing how it's translated to these young men at an early stage in their career in such a short amount of time.''

The attitude adjustment has been an about-face from recent Pacers teams that languished while the young players learned how to handle distractions and the inevitable peaks and valleys in a long season.

This year, they've been all business. They show up for work, punch their time cards and methodically go about accomplishing the goals they set.

``When we clinched the first seed in the East, we weren't jumping up and down throwing a party, we kind of expected that,'' forward Austin Croshere said. ``We just have a business approach to it. We just prepare ourselves. It's worked for us all year and it worked for us in the playoffs.''

That mentality was never more evident than in their first-round sweep of Boston. After cruising to two home wins, the Pacers dismantled the overmatched Celtics from start to finish of Games 3 and 4 to close out the series.

``There was no celebrations,'' Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh said. ``It was just: 'We did what we had to do, let's go back and get ready for the next round.'

``They've been very professional, beyond their years,'' he added. ``They've treated every game as an important game. Once they win or lose it, they move on to the next one, which is exactly the way you've got to go to be a good team.''

There have been few losses to lament this season. Indiana won a franchise-record and NBA-best 61 games in the regular season before breezing past Boston.

What they have been able to do, unlike in previous years, is avoid the extreme lows. The Pacers never lost more than two games in a row during the season and practically shrugged off every win as just a small step down the path to a championship.

``I haven't seen them get too high over wins, too low over losses, and I think that's unusual for a young team,'' Walsh said.

That's particularly pleasing for Walsh, who watched nearly the same team race off to a fast start last year, only to collapse over the second half of the season and lose a third straight first-round playoff series.

The Pacers have treated this year like a mission, systematically wearing down opponents with hard-nosed defense and efficient offense.

``We like to grind games out and get after them,'' Al Harrington said.

Indiana takes great pride in the way they play, and it's all a reflection of their disciplined, no-nonsense coach.

``One of our goals was to be a work team, a team that works hard not only in practices, but works hard in games and works the game, so to speak,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. ``That means you try to wear out teams with your depth and have a physical presence at both ends of the floor.''

The Pacers have wholeheartedly bought into that approach.

They embrace the blue-collar label and make no apologies for a style of play that isn't always the most pleasing to the eye.

``We know we have to be a hard-nosed, unselfish team and we know it's going to get tougher with each passing round,'' Carlisle said. ``If you're going to call us (blue-collar), we'll take it as a compliment.''