In a “take care of business” game, the Indiana Pacers did just that, topping the Detroit Pistons to snap their four game losing streak and get back to .500. The Pacers weren’t perfect, but overall played a much sharper game, responding well to the times they did struggle to put the Pistons in the rearview on a big third quarter.
After a sluggish start, the Pacers flipped a 9-2 deficit to take the lead late in the first, getting there on an 11-0 run. Doug McDermott replaced Jeremy Lamb in the starting lineup as Nate Bjorkgren shifted, and tightened, his rotation. Domantas Sabonis scored 11 points and had four assists in the quarter, helping the Pacers to a nine-point lead heading into the second on a buzzer-beating three.
The second quarter was a much tougher climb for Indiana, struggling mightily against Detroit’s rebounding and interior offense. The Pistons outscored the Pacers 62-52 in the paint for the game and pulled in 15 offensive rebounds, leading to 20 extra points. That allowed the Pistons to storm back in the second, taking advantage of a floundering offensive stretch for the Pacers, to tie the game at 52-52 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner led the way offensively to put Indiana back on top thanks to a 15-1 run that pushed the lead into double figures, eventually going up by 12 on a Justin Holiday three. Out of a timeout, the Pacers had an odd five-second violation leading to a Detroit and-one Josh Jackson that turned into a second chance opportunity for Sekou Doumbouya.
Fortunately, the Pacers had a response in the final seconds of the third, getting those four points back to take the 12-point advantage into the fourth. The Pacers outscored Detroit 30-18, a callback to the Halcyon Days that began the season. Lamb (currently a member of the 50/50/90 Club) scored five to open the final period, effectively putting a stamp on a game the Pacers would lead by as many as 19.
Sabonis played much better tonight than he had in recent games, scoring 26 points with eight rebounds and eight assists. After a bit of a tentative start, Sabonis led the charge on the offensive end to help the Pacers to 51% shooting and a cool 14-31 from three point range, even picking up a pair of blocks, including this nifty recovery after the Pacers (predictably) failed to pick up the rebound.
Brogdon scored 10 of his 18 in the third quarter, helping push the Pacers’ lead into double figures after they had allowed Detroit back in the previous quarter. Turner had nine of his 14 in the period as well, finishing with eight rebounds and two blocks.
Bjorkgren’s decision to tighten the rotation to eight players led to extended minutes for both Lamb and T.J. McConnell, with Lamb scoring 17 on 6-7 shooting and McConnell providing a nice spark with seven assists and six boards, scoring seven with a corner three pointer mixed in.
Outside of Detroit’s paint dominance and rebounding edge, the Pacers also struggled with getting to the line again tonight. They attempted just 10 free throws, trailing the Pistons by nine in attempts and five on the scoreboard. Though the Pistons found extensive success with rookie Isaiah Stewart (17 on 8-9 shooting) and Jackson (18 with eight free throw attempts) inside, it proved a necessity given their dreadful 5-28 shooting from deep.
Some of those attempts were as ugly as they come for Detroit, but they do highlight an interesting bright spot for the Pacers in these last three games: improved three point defense. After slipping to dead last in opponent three point percentage, the Pacers have since allowed their opponents to shoot 31%, 29%, and now 18%, moving them to around 23rd.
The Pacers will have one more game on their road trip when they head south to face the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. It will be the first meeting against Atlanta on the season, including former head coach Nate McMillan. The Hawks will be on a second night of a back-to-back, but that hasn’t mattered much for the Pacers these last two nights.