After topping the Detroit Pistons 112-106 on November 8, it appeared that, while imperfect, the first three games of the Indiana Pacers season was a distant memory after dropping to 0-3 with two of those losses to these Pistons. Unfortunately, the final meeting of the season revised the memory of those early matchups, with the Pistons securing another close-it-out win that wrapped up the series 3-1 in favor or Detroit.
The Pacers didn’t help their own case, especially in the first half, when their lackluster play put them in a hole the entire first half. Quickly falling behind 10-2 and then 12-4 by the first timeout, Indiana opened the game with four turnovers, granting the Pistons five quick points to aid to the early deficit.
Even when the Pacers weren’t turning it over, the shots themselves weren’t going. The Pacers shot 2-7 before the timeout, finishing just a shade above 30% for the quarter and finding themselves down 32-19. A pair of three pointers from Aaron Holiday early in the second along with seven quick points from Domantas Sabonis brought the Pacers to within two halfway through the quarter.
Unfortunately, when Doug McDermott’s go-ahead three went awry, the Pistons capitalized, getting five straight points to push the lead to seven. Even as the game stalled on the scoreboard for over a minute and a half, the Pacers missed their next four shots, allowing the Pistons to hang onto their lead, pushing it back up to double figures with a minute remaining in the quarter on the backs of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond.
The Pacers, trailing by 11 at the break, came up with a renewed sense of purpose out of the half, quickly slicing into the lead and bringing the game to within one just four minutes in. A four point play from Griffin as a response continued to accentuate Indiana’s struggles in getting over the hump, but even with big plays from Griffin, the Pacers’ offense was finding a rhythm with T.J. Warren.
Warren finally put Indiana into the lead with under five left in the quarter, scoring six straight to take the lead. The Pacers pushed their lead to seven, but nearly suffered two scoreless minutes to get there. Christian Wood closed out the quarter positively for the Pistons, hitting a three pointer with 36 seconds left, bringing the Pistons to within four at 75-71.
The Pacers outscored Detroit 31-16 in the third quarter, outplaying the Pistons on both sides of the ball, but the little bit of life Indiana granted them to end the quarter proved lethal. Drummond opened up the fourth scoring six. McDermott did his best to keep Detroit at bay, but the Pistons regained the lead on another Wood three pointer with 7:28 remaining.
To start the fourth, the Pacers surrendered four offensive rebounds, gifting the Pistons six points in the 15-9 start to the fourth. Myles Turner’s lone field goal of the night came on a three point play as a response, kicking off a 7-0 Pacers run that put the Pacers ahead by five. A subsequent 7-0 Pistons run set up a back-and-forth down the stretch with Warren doing his best as a response to every Detroit bucket.
Warren scored eight in the final four and a half minutes, every shot coming as a response to a Pistons basket, but ultimately, the Pacers as a team’s complete inability to get a stop allowed Derrick Rose to skillfully guide Detroit to the win, scoring six with two assists in the final three and a half minutes. Rose drew defenders on his second assist, finding Griffin wide open behind the three point arc for the go-ahead bucket.
The Pacers fell 108-101, allowing the Pistons to close the game on a 7-0 run. After a strong third quarter, Indiana’s defense completely fell apart in the fourth, allowing Detroit to outscore them 37-26 in the quarter. It proved just the second win after trailing heading into the fourth for the Pistons, the first since their opening night win over the Pacers.
Like with the earlier matchups, it felt as if the Pistons were just a step quicker than the Pacers all night. The Pistons obliterated the Pacers on the glass 51-33, including a frustrating 14-5 advantage, which led to a 14-2 advantage in second chance points. Drummond alone outrebounded Indiana on the offensive end, pulling in seven as part of 22 on the night, which allowed him to score a team high 25.
Allowing Drummond’s numbers to make an impact has been a killer for the Pacers this season and both Turner and Sabonis were shoved around with expected regularity. Sabonis himself had a double double of 18 points and 13 rebounds, but outside of his play early in the second quarter, wasn’t scoring or rebounding with any sort of impact on the game himself, which is going to turn games against the Pacers against Detroit at least 75% of the time.
Turner meanwhile scored just four points on 1-8 shooting. There was no touch on his shot around the rim all night and his three shots from beyond the arc failed to find net as well. His three point play in the fourth looked to be the spark necessary for the Pacers to come away with the win, but proved to not be the case. Even defensively, Turner’s impact was diminished by Indiana’s inability to recover blocks.
Along with Justin Holiday, he and Turner combined for seven of Indiana’s nine blocks, but only one turned into possession for the Pacers. The resulting play was a three point miss from McDermott that would have pushed the Pacers ahead by 10 points late in the third. It missed, allowing Wood to respond with a three of his own, a devastating six point swing after an impressive quarter.
Brogdon finished with 21 points, playing a big part in bringing the Pacers into the lead in the third, but had just three points in the fourth, splitting a trip at the line with 1:38 remaining. To make matters worse, he appeared to hurt his pinky finger at the very end of the game. Jeremy Lamb had 12 points on 4-10 shooting, getting just one shot in the fourth quarter. For as effortless a scorer as Lamb as been, letting him go invisible in the final seven minutes proved costly, even for as well as Warren was playing.
Warren, finishing with 26 points on 11-18 shooting, did his best to will the Pacers to a win, but the defensive struggles overcome his shotmaking late. Off the bench, McDermott had 10 and A. Holiday finished with eight, but neither player could match the late play of Rose or Wood. Goga Bitadze closed the first half, getting a block on Drummond, but did not return in the second half while Edmond Sumner, active for the first time since the last meeting in Detroit, sat out of the rotation tonight.
The best news to come out of tonight is that the Pacers are now finished playing the Pistons this season, barring some kind of miraculous playoff meeting between the two teams. The Pacers fell 1-3 to Detroit, losing late in all three games. The loss, on the opening night of a back-to-back may be a short-term concern, especially with numerous fatigue factors stacking up for tomorrow night’s game: the second night of a back-to-back, third game in four nights, and the last of a five game road trip.
The best news to come out of that scenario is that the Pacers are facing the 4-18 New York Knicks, losers of eight straight (three of their last five by 30 or more). The Knicks made headlines today after firing their head coach David Fizdale. Despite how easy it is to mark up the Knicks as a win, a spirited performance from New York could create a difficult situation for a road-weary Pacers team, especially pending any bad news on Brogdon.