Pacers 98, Pistons 83: Granger, Rush Lead Offense And Defense In Division Victory

Ron Artest and Ben Wallace are rolling in their graves. Wait, they're still alive? The former bruising defenders of the Pacers and Pistons (actually, Wallace still uses up cap space on Detroit's bench) are a distant memory of what occurred in the Palace on Tuesday.

Defense was left at the ticket gates as the two Central Division bottom-feeders chose a fast-paced style that still didn't result in many points. After the Pacers raced out to an early lead, the blue and gold held off two minor Pistons' comebacks behind the offense of Danny Granger and Brandon Rush. Ultimately, it was the Pacers who put forth a strong mental and physical effort in the second half as the blue and gold secured a 98-83 win.

The victory moved the Pacers one game behind the Sixers for the No. 8 lottery spot (before all games ended Tuesday). It also snapped a nine-game road losing streak.

Despite the lax in defense (particularly in the first half from both squads), the Pistons couldn't hit a broadside of a barn despite wide open lanes and easy cuts to the basket. Detroit made only 36 percent of their 84 field goal attempts, while the Pacers were much more efficient in their drives to the rim, nailing 43 percent of their shots. Granger won the battle of the night, out-willing and out-producing a hard-nosed Tayshaun Prince, who had to be the only Pistons player who looked at this game as having any meaning. Granger stuck it in Prince's grill all night, cut around him without the ball and provided a tone that ran into his teammates. Granger tallied 32 points (five 3-pointers), five rebounds and four assists.

But an even bigger performance came from Rush, who crushed Richard Hamilton on both ends of the court. Rush hounded Hamilton early and it took Rip completely out of the game. Hamilton made only 3-of-12 shots, while Rush was as proficient as he's ever been on the offensive side. He only took nine shots, but made seven of them along with five free throws for 20 points. It was a great performance for Rush, who continues to impress in the final month of the season while facing psychological difficulties during the first five months of play. Great to have him back.

More on how this game rolled after the jump.

  • Indiana led by double figures in the first quarter (29-18), but only held a 52-49 advantage at the half. The team came out at the beginning of the second quarter and lost any momentum it had built in the first stanza by rushing outside shots. It also didn't help that Detroit started making those lay-ups they were missing in the first. After Roy Hibbert failed to convert on an "And-1" opportunity, coach Jim O'Brien called a timeout and reamed Hibbert and the rest of the team for not keeping up the tempo against the Pistons. He told them that Detroit cannot guard fast teams. Turns out he was very, very right. After halftime, the Pacers began to slowly extend their lead. It was clear that Indiana wanted it more. Half the Pistons players looked like they had awoken from a halftime nap.
  • Will Bynum started strong by rolling off 11 points in 17 minutes before leaving the game with a back contusion in the first half. It was a break for the Pacers as the starting point guard was replaced by Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon, which neither got the rhythm going like Bynum had rolling in the second quarter.
  • Pistons coach John Kuester was sent packing with 1:32 left in the third quarter after arguing a charging foul on Gordon. Honestly, I had forgotten Gordon was even playing until Kuester got all heated up on the screen. Gordon is officially in "we need to tank this season down the drain" mode. His body language was equal to that of a punished fourth-grader not allowed to go out to recess. He did not want to be there.
  • Crazy two-pointer from Granger with 3:46 remaining when the Pacers held only a 10-point lead and the Pistons were looking for one final push. Prince was in his grill on the left wing and Granger just lifted into his face and heaved a banked-shot that went through the net while also drawing the foul. The 3-point play put the finishing touches on this one. Indiana continued pushing and extended the lead to a 96-79 advantage in the next two minutes.
  • After several stories this morning about Hibbert dodging foul trouble, the center found himself in a couple of binds tonight, but he was still able to log 35 minutes despite picking up four early fouls. 
  • Earl Watson led the Pacers by taking full advantage of the fast-paced run-and-gun offense as he dished out 13 assists to teammates.
  • Your official A.J. Price watch saw the rookie score seven points in 13 minutes. He didn't get as much playing time as I expected due to Watson's sterling performance. I was hoping he would get more as T.J. Ford sat this one out again.
  • The Pistons were eliminated from playoff consideration after the loss tonight.
  • Did anyone else begin twitching in the final minute when the Pacers held a huge lead in the Palace and there was nothing left to play for, yet our starters were still on the court? Ahh, memories. At least if there had been a brawl this time, the Pacers players and staff would have outnumbered the amount of people in the arena. If you thought Conseco "Reggie Miller" Fieldhouse was empty...yikes. Detroit is hurting. This was also the first time the Pacers have ever swept the Pistons in a season series...ever.
  • I don't know if I just missed this news at some point this season, but it was announced before the game that Pacers assistant coach Dick Harter would be hanging up his clipboard at the end of this season. Harter, who was an assistant with the Pistons during the 1980's, was honored by the home team before the game for his contributions to the game of basketball.
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