During the past couple of seasons, if the Indiana Pacers fell behind in a game, they stayed behind and looked ahead to the next game.
Not so this year.
Though not every comeback attempt is successful, the Pacers have taken on coach Jim O'Brien's personality of believing they're never out of the game, no matter the deficit.
The Pacers, who host the Toronto Raptors tonight at Conseco Fieldhouse, have won five games in which they trailed by eight or more points this season. In two of those victories -- at Orlando last week and against Chicago on Wednesday -- they trailed by at least 15 points. They recovered from a 15-point deficit against Phoenix on Dec. 4 before losing by four.
"We believe we have the tools to get back in the game no matter what," Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal said. "In previous years when we struggled to score, we'd get down 15 and we'd be like we'd get the next game. Now we know we can put up 40 points in a quarter and that's the biggest thing."
The Pacers aren't overhauling their schemes and O'Brien isn't chewing his team out during timeouts. Sometimes O'Brien encourages them to contest more shots. Other times, O'Neal, Mike Dunleavy or Jamaal Tinsley will speak up during timeouts.
"It's the old cliche about the harder you work, the more difficult it is to surrender," O'Brien said. "These guys have worked hard. We're capable of defending at a high level and we're capable of scoring a lot of points."
O'Neal grinned when reminded that they've shown they can easily blow a lead, too.
The Pacers have lost three games in which they led by at least 10 points. The most noticeable loss came when they wasted a 25-point lead against Denver at the Fieldhouse on Nov. 10. The Pacers nearly lost to the Nuggets again after leading by 18 points on Nov. 27.
"We run to score all the time," O'Neal said. "If we're going to run to score, we have to run back and play defense. We cannot score and give up buckets on the other end; that's been the thing. We feel very confident that with the way we play, as the season progresses, we're going to get a lot better."
O'Brien doesn't believe in slowing the pace if they have a significant lead. The only time they get out of their up-tempo system is during the final three minutes of the game.
"I've seen a lot of games lost or almost lost by going into a style that's not your style because you're trying to protect the lead," O'Brien said. "We are a running team until the three-minute mark."