After a 12-5 start, the Indiana Pacers were looking like the story of the NBA, unleashing a spaced-out system that brought a previously prehistoric offense into the league's top ten in points per possession.
The luster has worn off a bit in the last few games, as they had lost three of their last four, and the Detroit Pistons added to that Saturday night by blowing them out at the Palace for arguably their most impressive win of the season, 118-96.
Detroit improves to 14-11 on the season while Indiana drops to 13-9.
The Pistons caught fire from three-point range, shooting 13-of-29, either a big development or outlier for the team ranked last in the league in true shooting percentage. Meanwhile, the Pacers (ranked sixth in the league in three-point field goal percentage entering the game) hit just 3-of-16 from deep, struggling to find any open looks against the Pistons' perimeter length.
With both teams coming off back-to-backs, the Pistons looked like the much fresher team after a comfortable win over Philly last night rather than a matchup with Miami's #2-ranked defense. They repeatedly got easy looks from the corners and elbows as Indiana struggled to get back in transition after turnovers and misses. Detroit shot 5-of-10 on corner threes for the game.
As expected, Detroit's relentless attack on the offensive glass also posed a big problem for the Pacers' thin frontcourt rotation. Indiana was ranked 24th in the league in defensive rebounding rate entering the game, and allowed 10 offensive rebounds to the Pistons while securing just 28 defensive rebounds themselves.
Another commonly-discussed topic by the announcers and tweeters was the Pistons' improved ball handling in this game compared to their first showing against the Pacers where they turned the ball over 24 times. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had eight assists, well over his previous career high of five. In his best all-around performance of the season, KCP also added eight points, seven rebounds and three steals.
In November loss to Pacers, Pistons turned it over 23 times. Only 6 in game's first 21 minutes tonight.— Keith Langlois (@Keith_Langlois) December 13, 2015
You could've guessed the first Indiana game was an outlier, since the Pistons have been so effective at avoiding turnovers (ranking second to last in the league by turning the ball over on just 12.5 percent of their possessions). But nonetheless, they bounced back in a big way.
Reggie Jackson strengthened his All-Star case even more, abusing Indiana's deep, talented backcourt for 21 points and nine assists.
He also did this:
Ersan Ilyasova added 20 points on just 15 shooting possessions and Marcus Morris, the Pistons' resident Han Solo (imagine him shouting "never tell me the odds!" before chucking up a contested long two) stepped up big on Star Wars night, scoring 16 efficient points and shutting down Paul George, the Eastern Conference's leading scorer.
George came into the game averaging 27.7 points per game and managed just 13 on 4-of-16 shooting with three assists and four turnovers. George got visibly frustrated throughout the game, picking up a technical foul and throwing wild passes that contributed to Detroit's 29 points off turnovers in the first half. But it's hard to take too much away from him on a day where practically nothing went right for Indiana after the first quarter.
The Pistons play the Clippers in their next game, looking to avenge another loss from early in the season. Tip-off is Monday at 7:30 Eastern at the Palace.
Scattered live observations on the game, starting in the second quarter:
- I'm still mad skeptical of the bench's ability to hold steady, but when they do, this is an awfully tough team to beat.
- Blake two-for-two from three. Guess that solves all our problems!
- Offensive foul by Baynes...he's got the mask, but he's no Darth Vader.
- Monta Ellis just doesn't have the explosiveness he used to. No real way to create separation reliably. Figure the last couple years of his new contract are going to be ugly.
- Pistons aren't getting these wide-open threes from some kind of trickery -- just out-hustling the Pacers. 63-51 lead. Corner has been wide open on two of the last three possessions.
- You never want to blame losses on a rookie big man's absence, but do the Pacers really miss Myles Turner? At the very least they could use another body. Allen and Mahinmi just look tired.
- Jackson just keeps looking better and better to me. Him abusing George Hill one-on-one was not exactly a development I expected.
- Mahinmi with the Enes Kanter stat line at halftime. 4-of-4 from the field, minus-13. Individual plus-minus stats in a one-half sample are not exactly the full story, but he has not been a factor around the basket defensively.
- Technical on George after getting in the ref's face after a dinky off-the-ball foul. Maybe a little frustration coming through- he's just two-of-nine.
- Don't feel like the PIstons are doing anything particularly different than normal - just their shots are falling and the 50/50 bounces are going their way.
- We've heard it before, but it bears mentioning that the Jackson/Drummond PnR is nigh-unguardable and damn fun to watch. Jam by Reggie right there.
- Example of what I mentioned with Ellis- can't shake the defender, leaves his feet in search of something, travels.
- Pacers still pressing. Ambitious pass is intercepted and it leads to easy transition bucket for Ilyasova. This 15-point lead seems safe...fingers crossed.
- George Hill is a really good basketball player. This season shows how criminally under-utilized he was offensively in the Lance/Hibbert era.
- First time in several minutes I've seen George get the better of Morris one-on-one.
- Alley-oops on alley-oops on alley-oops.
- Timeout- expecting to see a bench-heavy unit here with a lead. Starters have played the whole quarter so far.
- Not a huge fan of posting up Andre, but if you gotta do it, do it here. Jordan Hill is about half his strength.
- It's a huge development for the Pistons if Stanley Johnson becomes a guy you can't help off in the corner.
- Indiana has only taken nine threes. That is odd.
- Pistons have broken it wide open. 12 of 22 from deep now.
- 21-point fourth-quarter lead means it's time for "put the bench unit out there and pass it around the perimeter with no plan."
- Always suprised more teams don't just put guards or wings on Tolliver. Guarding him with Lavoy Allen is just playing right into the Pistons' hands.
- I do like Baynes more as a roll man than a post-up guy, even though he's so aggressive with calling for those. Big dunk there.
- KCP with another three. Not sure why he's still out there with all his minutes and Hilliard waiting to get some time, but cool shot.
- Jackson and KCP finally coming out with 3:40 to go and a 25-point league. SVG's not messing around with any comebacks.
- I think this is Detroit's biggest and most impressive win of the year so far. Things were bleak a couple games ago, and just this back-to-back puts them within a half-game of fourth place in the East.