Take Care of Business Games have been in short supply for the Indiana Pacers this season, in large part because they simply don’t take care of business in any game, but they finally pulled through in one in beating the Detroit Pistons at home. In extending Detroit’s losing streak to 13 games, they also had a first this year, winning after trailing by double figures.
The Pistons got that lead in the opening minutes, going on a 12-0 run to lead 12-2 after the Pacers committed a particularly egregious shot clock violation. A three second violation on Detroit’s end set up an Indiana response, a 12-2 run to make it a 14-14 game. Extraordinary play from Saddiq Bey in particular helped buoy the Pistons through the rest of the first quarter, though the Pacers were still able to eke out a 32-29 advantage after one.
Though a nice run by Indiana’s bench was able to extend the lead to six early in the second, the Pistons were able to keep it close, eventually overtaking the Pacers midway through the quarter, going up 51-48. The Pacers were able to flip the scoreboard on a 13-4 run that culminated in a three-point play by Myles Turner, putting Indiana back ahead by six.
Bey would have a response, setting up an impressive back-and-forth duel between he and Caris LeVert to close out the half. Bey hit back-to-back threes, scoring nine in the closing two minutes while LeVert matched him, getting to the basket on four straight possessions to keep the lead at six and put Indiana at 70 points for the half.
That run from LeVert felt like a bit of a turning point in the game, not just in terms of Indiana finding some kind of groove, but just in how it was being played. Neither team seemed all that interested in precision play in the third quarter, something that benefited the Pacers taking their first double figure lead of the game.
The Pistons would make something of a minor run to make it a six-point game late in the third, but the Pacers did well to respond, getting it up to 13 and keeping it out of reach the rest of the way to get back into the win column.
LeVert finished the night with 31 points, a season high. LeVert’s success as a scorer came with his ability to attack the rim and finish through varying levels of contact. Twenty-two of his points came in the paint, scoring an extra seven at the free throw line. In a game that didn’t feel all that telling of future success or failures for the team as a whole, LeVert’s success at the rim felt a bit more sustainable than his reliance on jumpers out beyond the three point arc.
The late absence of Malcolm Brogdon with a sore achilles did put more of a focus on LeVert as a primary ball handler with Brad Wanamaker being the only point guard in the rotation. LeVert did well calling his own number tonight, but was rather underwhelming as a playmaker. He finished with five assists, but outside of a nice feed to Myles Turner on a wide open dunk, it wasn’t an ideal showing for him as a consistent point guard option.
Though LeVert and the Pacers had some wonky and downright perplexing offensive possessions throughout the night, there was just enough of a margin of error with LeVert’s scoring and the team’s ability to get to the free throw line that it wasn’t made into a larger concern, even as the Pistons absolutely torched the Pacers in transition 28-6.
Indiana did themselves no favors in some of these dreadful offensive possessions (such as Justin Holiday saving a backcourt violation to Torrey Craig, who just seemed surprised the ball was still live, resulting in a turnover), Detroit was quick to pick up full court press, which was able to fluster Wanamaker and LeVert. Those led to some really rough late shot clock possessions that helped the Pistons to their transition success.
Alongside LeVert, five other Pacers reached double figures, headed up by Justin Holiday with 17 in his return to the starting role. Holiday struggled overall, going just 5-15, but did put in a trio of threes and even finished off a surprising fourth quarter dunk.
Domantas Sabonis assisted on that dunk, finishing with a team high six dimes to go with a marginal 12 point, nine rebound outing. Sabonis was limited with foul trouble sure, but the Pistons were quick to double and triple him, forcing the Pacers to look elsewhere. Turner was granted extra opportunities as a result, scoring 16 points on 7-12 shooting with seven boards and four blocks.
Indiana’s bench piled on the scoring early, led by Jeremy Lamb early and Chris Duarte often. Lamb finished with 11 and six assists while Duarte had 15 and nine rebounds. Oshae Brissett’s activity continued to be invaluable to Indiana’s less than ideal offensive stretches, bringing extra energy and nine points to the game, hitting a nice three to end the first quarter.
With the Omircon variance reeking havoc on the NBA and American sports at large, the Pacers have largely remained unaffected in terms of volume with only Rick Carlisle remaining out due to COVID reasons. Though that’s in no way a predictor moving forward, Indiana will have the next four days off, giving them a bit of a buffer in continuing to prevent the spread of the virus among the team.
They’ll next take the court on Tuesday, December 21 to face the Miami Heat on the road. After the pitiful performance on December 3, the Pacers should theoretically be pumped to go up 2-1 in the season series, but barring any sort of roster shakeup prior to Tuesday, it’s impossible to say what Pacers team will show up.