Tapping into their ability to win ugly, the Indiana Pacers were able to set themselves up nicely in the early goings that they could really step into the game when it began to open up. The result was Indiana winning all four quarters against the Detroit Pistons, snapping a 10-game road losing streak, and keeping pace for the fourth seed.
The Pacers led 18-15 after the first quarter, a score that seemed astronomically high for the basketball being played. Not surprisingly, both teams shot dreadfully (the Pacers had just one make outside of the paint in the entire quarter), though the feeling coming out of it was that Indiana had been successful in forcing Detroit turnovers, but unsuccessful in capitalizing off of them.
Things began to settle down for both teams towards the tail end of the first. Domantas Sabonis scored the final seven of the quarter for the Pacers with the second unit lifting Indiana out of offensive purgatory in the second. Doug McDermott and T.J. Leaf scored 10 of the first 12 of the quarter for the Pacers as part of a 12-2 run that put them ahead by 13.
Indiana managed to keep the game up around double figures despite a big run by Luke Kennard, bouncing back to lead by eight at the half, again heading into the break with a sense of lost opportunity. They scored the first five of the third quarter, but then got tested when Detroit themselves began to find an offensive groove.
Reggie Jackson picked up three fouls in the first quarter, planting him to the bench. That eagerness to return was on display on the third. He worked to shift the game in Detroit’s favor by scoring 12 in the quarter, getting a pair of threes from Wayne Ellington as insurance.
Over their last 10 road losses, it was these kinds of stretches that would ultimately shift the tide of the game, but the Pacers did well to avoid that kind of collapse tonight. Thaddeus Young in particular wasn’t going to let Indiana bow out as they have so many times before, keeping pace with the scoring from Jackson and Ellington, scoring six early in the third, alongside Myles Turner, who had 10 of his own.
Even still, Detroit pushed within reach, closing the gap to six during a four and a half minute stretch where Indiana didn’t make a field goal. Yet another familiar aspect of their recent road struggles, the Pacers were able to largely overcome that by getting to the line 14 times in the third, still missing five to keep the door open.
The Pacers managed to close the third with a purpose, scoring the final nine of the quarter to turn an uneasy seven point lead into a 16-point advantage heading into the fourth. After pushing ahead by 18, the Pistons scored the next eight, with Ellington slowly chipping away at the lead, making it an 88-80 game halfway through the quarter.
Bojan Bogdanovic made it a double figure game to act as the only points scored in a nearly three minute stretch. The Pacers not only forced misses on the Pistons, who went 0-3, all from three, but they rebounded well to make each Detroit possession a one-and-done play. Detroit would bring the game no closer than 10.
Young sunk the dagger on a wide open set three in the corner. Aaron Holiday would steal in the inbounds pass and score, immediately drawing a frustration foul on Jackson on the next inbounds, returning possession to the Pacers. Adding insult to injury, Young again hit a wide open set three in the corner to put an exclamation point on a big home and home sweep against the Pistons.
Those two threes elevated Young into leading scorer honors, finishing with 21 points and eight rebounds. Those two threes were also the fifth and sixth of the night for the Pacers, who were under 30% from deep at 6-21. Bogdanovic and Turner each finished with 17 points with a block each. The latter is notable as it was Bogdanovic’s first block of the season.
Off the bench, Sabonis led the way with 15 points and 13 rebounds, joined in double figures by McDermott, who was 6-7 from the floor with 14 points. Leaf finished with five points in just six minutes, providing a big boost the Pacers early in the second quarter despite his limited minutes.
Overall, there wasn’t a bad night to be found among any of the front court players. Combined, they shot over 60%, helping Indiana to a 62-36 victory in points in the paint. Unfortunately, their success was matched almost completely in the opposite direction by the backcourt rotation.
Again short Darren Collison and Wesley Matthews, Indiana brought Cory Joseph and Tyreke Evans into the starting lineup, where they shot a combined 3-21 from the floor. Joseph’s shooting continues to be a complete mess, but he did take on a pure point guard role tonight with a season high tying 12 assists, as part of 31 total by the Pacers.
Evans meanwhile was an inexplicable 1-5 at the rim, but did manage to get to the line for six attempts. As poorly as they both played, they still got six points each, which while not great, provided just enough balance against a Detroit team that had two players over 20 minutes who had less.
With the win, the Pacers move to 47-32 on the season, keeping pace with the Boston Celtics, who also completed a home and home sweep of Miami tonight. Boston and Indiana will meet on Friday night in a game that will have massive home court advantage implications.
If Boston wins, Indiana will almost certainly be opening the NBA Playoffs on the road for a fourth straight year. If Indiana wins, however, they’ll have a slight leg up on the Celtics, but will still need to play through their final two games beyond that given their disadvantage in tiebreakers.