The Indiana Pacers haven't scored 109 points in a loss since April 12, 2013, but saw that streak come to a close when they ran into the offensive buzzsaw known as...the Detroit Pistons? Well, nevermind the Pistons are the only team in the NBA who shoot worse than the Pacers, a team that hadn't broken 50% shooting in a game this season, and sat at 2-13 on their home floor, Detroit was clearly reinvigorated after the team cut Josh Smith on Monday.
After a bit of a sluggish start for both teams, Detroit opened up offensively on a 16-4 run, going up 29-19 in a stretch they shot 10-13 from the floor, setting the tone for a Pacers team that would be forced to play from behind. The Pacers managed to close the gap in the second quarter, but despite drawing the game to a single point, were never able to break through as the Pistons shot 58% in the first half to lead 57-53 at the break.
In the third quarter, Indiana once again threatened to jump into the lead, but another big run at 14-2 once again opened the lead into double figures for Detroit. At no point in the game did it feel like Indiana was ever truly out of the game given what they were capable of doing with their own offense. The Pacers shot 50.6% on the night, assisting on 25 of their 42 field goals and corralling 11 offensive rebounds, but as good as Indiana was offensively, they had no answer for Detroit on the other end of the floor.
The Pistons kept the Pacers down double digits for much of the fourth quarter until Frank Vogel applied intentional fouling to Andre Drummond. Drummond went 1-4 from the line in that stretch, which allowed Indiana to make a last push behind a pair of Luis Scola put backs. Scola was fouled on the second layup, but Indiana wasted a huge opportunity down seven.
Not only did Scola not convert the free throw, but after David West grabbed the rebound, C.J. Watson lost the ball on the ensuing possession. After a rare stop, George Hill was whistled for a charge call, and the Pistons managed to close the game out at the line as Indiana's offense ran out in the final minutes, leading to a 119-109 loss for the Pacers.
In a way, this wasn't a surprising performance by Detroit. Indiana was on the right side of this kind of game on Tuesday. The Pacers used the return of George Hill to play one of their best games of the season against New Orleans, not only in execution, but in pure effort. The Pistons did just that tonight. Moving forward without Smith, the Pistons were active on defense, sharp on offense, and played likely as hard as they have at any point this season.
The Pistons shot 54.7% and also had 25 assists. They were able to overcome a poor free throw shooting night with four late makes, but also in forcing turnovers. Indiana had 18 on the night, which led to 22 Detroit points. Seventeen fast break points also broke Indiana's back, especially given how much they sliced Indiana in the paint with 56 points.
Coupled with 10 three pointers, Detroit were in a zone tonight and the Pacers just happened to be the team that went against them. It didn't help Indiana much that they were without Roy Hibbert for much of the night. Foul trouble limited Hibbert's time on the floor, but certainly didn't limit his effectiveness on the offensive end, scoring 19 points, getting to the line 10 times.
Hibbert's play offensively was a big boost for Indiana, but early fouls set up a difficult night for him defensively against Drummond and Greg Monroe, eventually fouling out halfway through the fourth quarter. Indiana missed Hibbert's rim protection all night, even when he was in the game as the foul trouble made him tentative in the paint.
Indiana certainly didn't improve inside without him. Lavoy Allen and the David West, Luis Scola combo were overwhelmed by Monroe and Drummond, who combined for 39 points and 21 rebounds. Allen and Scola each reached double figures with 10 points and 14 respectively. Scola scored 10 in the final period, including both of his offensive rebounds as part of seven on the night. West struggled shooting at just 3-12, but did pull in 11 boards.
This was a night the Pacers could've used the help of Ian Mahinmi. The lack of size against Detroit's frontline forced Vogel to employ the Hack-a-Drummond strategy simply to get Drummond off the floor and give his team a chance inside. The Pacers were short Damjan Rudez to illness heading into the night, but lost Rodney Stuckey to what was diagnosed as a face contusion after getting swiped by the Pistons early in the third. C.J. Miles also sat out the final 16 minutes with trouble breathing, citing heavy coughing making it difficult for him to breathe.
Despite being short handed, Indiana did get solid contributions from Solomon Hill and George Hill. Solo had five points late in the third quarter to help trim Detroit's lead to single digits (ever briefly when the Pistons hit three consecutive three pointers to end the quarter). George Hill had another double figure night with 13 points, including eight in the second half a big three pointer to attempt to slice into Detroit's momentum to end the third. C.J. Watson scored 14 points as well on 6-8 shooting, but was hampered with four turnovers, coming at bad times for the Pacers.
If the Pacers were looking to use the return of Hill as momentum to make a push on the season, they took a step back tonight in their loss to the Pistons. While the play of Detroit did as much as anything to keep Indiana out of the win column, the Pacers still possess as a paper thin margin of error that goes away with each body that goes down and each stop they fail to make.
Indiana will be back in action tomorrow night for the second half of their eighth back-to-back on the season. Indiana is just 1-6 on the second half of back-to-backs (though an equally dreadful 1-7 on the first nights suggests there are bigger issues than back-to-backs this season), creating a difficult situation when they face the Brooklyn Nets, who are riding their first three game winning streak of the season.