The Detroit Pistons might have put together its most complete, most thrilling, most knockdown, drag-out slugfest of a victory since the glory days of the Going to Work era after surviving a 101-96 brawl with the Indiana Pacers.
The victory was the first at Indiana since 2008 and the first loss the Pacers, who entered tonight with the NBA's best record, have suffered at home this season. And for the second night in a row the Pistons did it behind Josh Smith.
Smith again focused on working in the paint, either driving for a running hook or backing down his man with a traditional post-up. He wasn't otherworldly efficient; in fact, he took 29(!) shots, but he did make 13 of them and scored 30 points.
What Stood Out:
Rebounding. Specifically, offensive rebounding. The Pistons outrebounded the Pacers 55-40 and 20 to nine on the offensive glass. And the Pistons were able to use those offensive boards to convert easy buckets at the rim. The Pacers allowed the fewest points in the paint in the NBA at 37 per game, but the Pistons, the NBA's most prolific paint offense, were able to notch 44.
Another key factor was the Pistons limiting the Pacers to one-and-done offensive sets. The Pacers had nine offensive boards while Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe alone had 10.
Who Stood Out:
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. I'm sure Josh Smith will get most of the headlines. He scored 30+ points for the second straight game, and also focused almost exclusively on working in the paint. That's important. But tonight what was even more important was the absolutely fabulous defense KCP displayed against Paul George.
Caldwell-Pope was able to use his athleticism to stick to George like gum on the bottom of a shoe. George could never outrun him or outmuscle him. KCP was always in his face and on his hip. George finished the game 4-of-14 and 1-of-5 from 3. George finished with 17 points but they were hard-earned from the charity stripe because he got nothing easy on the floor.
That being said, Smith delivered when it mattered. Specifically, blocking
George West from behind with less than a minute left. It essentially sealed the game for the Pistons.
- These past two games against the NBA's two best teams have been the most encouraging games of the season. They've been amazingly intense, and the fact that the Pistons are again playing intense games is a testament to their improved roster this year.
- I have to mention the huge lift Josh Harrelson gave the Pistons in the first half of the game. Drummond was limited to only a couple minutes due to foul trouble and Jorts delivered off the bench in a big way. Harrellson had seven points, 10 rebounds and two blocks on the night.
- Speaking of foul trouble, the officiating was ... frustrating. The Pacers have earned the kind of calls the elite teams in the NBA get and that often meant the Pistons were playing at a disadvantage. Things evened out in the last half of the fourth quarter, but Detroit could have easily let some unlucky/bad calls get in their head and really give the game away. Instead they absorbed every punch and fought back.
- Monroe played well on offense tonight, but was limited to nine touches. I'm all for Smith being featured in the paint, but 10 of his shots could have easily gone to Moose.
- Brandon Jennings play mostly well tonight, but again he had trouble closing things out in the fourth quarter. Tight defense was bothering him and he dribbled away the shot clock trying to negotiate around his defender. This led to expiring shot clocks and poor Smith perimeter shots.
- Drummond, as mentioned, had to deal with foul trouble and only played 21 minutes. But he made his presence felt when on the court. He finished with nine points and nine boards, including some huge rebounds in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, after some progress, Dre regressed and hit just 1-of-6 from the free-throw line.
- A jump-shooting power forward again had their way against Detroit - mostly against Monroe. This has to do with a combination of Monroe's lack of speed and his insistence on showing hard on all screens in the pick-and-roll. Tonight Luis Scola was left wide open a number of times in the fourth quarter and he made Detroit pay, hitting 8-of-11 shots and keying the Pacers comeback in the fourth quarter after being down double digits.
- Finally, the Pistons didn't collapse. CELEBRATE!