The season has passed the halfway mark and yet tonight was the first of four matchups the Pacers will see with the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons are a little different from the team that had beaten Indiana eight straight times, and even different from the team that the Pacers had beaten twice to close out the year.
The Indiana Pacers entered the game 4-17 on the road after opening the year 2-0, and starting the year 0-3 within the division (again, the season is half over and the Pacers have only played three divisional opponents, each once, we'll be seeing a lot of these teams in the next few months). Questions are at an all time high about player motivation, coaching decisions, rotations, and lineups. What about forgetting the negatives and going out and playing? How about focusing on getting a road win against a divisional rival?
The Pacers entered the game as a rare benefit of injuries, fielding a mostly healthy lineup, also a rarity, and going up against the Pistons minus Ben Gordon, though Tayshaun Prince did see rare game action tonight. Indiana struggled mightly out of the gate shooting 1-8, but were a benefit from poor Pistons possessions to help the Pacers get into a rhythm and actually find themselves a double digit lead in the first quarter, pushed by the offensive tempo. The Pistons were unable to find an answer for the Pacers quick, small lineup as the Pacers jumped out to a 31-19 lead after the first.
The blue and gold lost no tempo in the second quarter, pushing the lead further up to 18 points. Brandon Rush stepped up with some big three pointers, The Pistons began to creep back in the game thanks to a number of tempo turnovers committed by Indiana, managing to pull the game to within single digits with three minutes left in the half on a 13-0 run, decimating the Pacers lead. Indiana quickly pushed it back out to eight thanks to a pair of three pointers by Rush and Granger just before the half.
Indiana stormed out of the break with 11 straight points to push it to a game high 19 points. The Pacers maintained the lead throughout the third, but allowed the Pistons to keep the game within striking ditsance with a number of second chance opportunities for Detroit. Danny Granger exploded in the lane throughout the third quarter to help keep Detroit at bay, holding an 18 point lead after three.
Granger led the offense as the Pacers extended their lead to 23 to help ice the game as the boos rained down in the Palace. The Pistons would only start to pull back in well into garbage time, and the Pacers, our Indiana Pacers, actually cruised to a victory.
Some bullet points on the rare, wonderful Pacers blowout after the jump:
- Jim O'Brien finally found a starting lineup that worked. The speed helped the Pacers get off to a quick start, and all five starters had some points to their name fairly early in the first, before pushing the lead with a smaller lineup.
- Troy Murphy took advantage of the small lineup to bang down low, flying towards rebounds, and in general, making life miserable for his defender in the first quarter while Mike Dunleavy was able to find a rhythm of his own in the second.
- Brandon Rush was a huge lift to the offense, knocking down a hat trick of triples to help push the Pacers first half lead and getting his fourth to stop a game changing Pistons run. He continued his hot streak in the second half, ending up with a season high 19 points and playing a strong defensive game on Richard Hamilton.
- The Pacers as a team managed to have a good shooting night, shooting over 50% from the floor most of the night as well as 45% from the three before garbage time pulled both down. The team also finished 24-26 from the line.
Danny Granger exploded to the rim in the second half, earning trip after trip to the line and taking every point when there, going 14-14 to make up for a fairly subpar night from the floor, finishing with 25.
- It's a tough game to really focus in on one player, because everyone showed up to play tonight. The team put forth a great effort on both sides, really earning the win they pulled out tonight.
Following a big win like this, how will the Pacers respond on the second night of a back-to-back? It helps to face a sub-.500 76ers team at home. Carry this over to tomorrow, guys!