Tuesday's game against the Pacers had all the makings of a disaster -- Indy opened the game on a 20-6 run, putting the Pistons behind the eight ball less than halfway through the first quarter. Detroit responded with a 14-2 run of their own to close the gap before the end of the period, but it was until after halftime that the Pistons finally got in gear and regained the lead.
From that point on, it was a completely different game, as Detroit dominated on both ends of the ball for long stretches, leading at one point by 23 points. That's a 37-point swing, which is extremely hard to do when there's another NBA team on the floor ostensibly contesting your shots and taking their own.
But Indy isn't your average NBA team this year. No, your average team posts a .500 record, and by losing Tuesday's game the guaranteed that they'd be finishing under .500 for the first time since ... since ... (checking Basketball-Reference) ... 1997. They now trail Orlando by two games for the final playoff spot and seem destined to miss the playoffs for just the second time since 1990.
Tayshaun Prince was clearly the star of the game, finishing with 24 points, including 16 after halftime. From MLive.com:
The Pacers went back and fourth between zone and man-to-man defenses, but nothing seemed to work against Prince.
"They just didn't know what to do," Billups said. "When you get something going like that, you have to keep with it."
You, me and every other fan of this team has railed against the all-too-frequent flat first quarters, but, despite what we saw early in the game, it seems the team is just as annoyed:
At the half, players voiced their frustration at what they described as an "embarrassing" first half.
"I had something to say. A couple other people had something to say," Billups said. "It was embarrassing to come out like that. There's no excuse for it."
It was obvious early in the third the Pistons meant to put this game away, as they dominated with a 35-18 third quarter, which allowed the bench to take over for much of the fourth.
In fact, Rasheed Wallace played just two and a half minutes after halftime, though that was largely the result of a hand injury suffered early. Referred to after the game by George Blaha as a hyperextended finger, this certainly doesn't seem like a serious ailment, though it won't be a surprise if the team goes easy on his minutes over the next few games so he can let it completely heal before the playoffs.
As for the Pacers, Jamaal Tinsley burned Detroit early with eight assists in the first quarter, but he had just two more the rest of the way. He was purely playing the role of the distributor: as Indy Cornrows points out, he didn't attempt a single field goal or free throw on the night.