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Pistons vs. Pacers preview: Back where it all began

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The first game the Pistons played in the post-Josh Smith era was against the Indiana Pacers. They won. They meet again.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Pistons roller coast ride of a season went from a horrifying plunge to an exhilarating climb when the team released high-priced forward Josh Smith. The first game the team played after waiving Smith was against the Indiana Pacers, a game they promptly won behind dominating games from big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.

Now the Pistons go back where it all started with another game against the Pacers. Only this time, Indy is looking up at Detroit in the standings. While the Pistons have gone 14-7 since Dec. 26, the Pacers have gone just 7-13 and are losers of nine of their past 11. Their two wins came against lowly Orlando and New York while they suffered defeats at the hands of Philadelphia, Minnesota, Miami and Sacramento.

Game Vitals

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
When:7 p.m. EST
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit

Unexceptionally regular analysis

The Pacers are a team of third- and fourth-options who are struggling to stay afloat in the absence of Paul George, and are missing that little bit of unpredictability that Lance Stephenson was able to provide last season. Head coach Frank Vogel is exceptionally talented at squeezing what he can out of his roster, but eventually you're trying to get blood from a turnip.

Since Dec. 26, the Pacers feature eight players hoisting between seven and 12 shots per game. Their leading scorer, C.J. Watson, averages 13.5 points per game. Indy only has one serious threat from the perimeter in CJ Miles and hi shot has been off lately. Otherwise, the team is trying to grind out quality looks from mid-range and in the post.

But the reality is that this team lives and dies by it's defense. Even with the profound struggles they've had this year they are still a potent defensive squad. The Pacers rank 11th in defensive efficiency since Dec. 26th and fourth in rebound percentage.

The Pistons, for comparison's sake, rank ninth and fifth, respectively.

First time we met this season

The Pistons kicked off a seven-game winning streak with a 119-109 victory.  Monroe and Drummond combined for 39 points, 21 rebounds, six steals, two blocks and shot 16-of-23 from the floor. Incidentally, DJ Augustin also had a strong game from the bench, shooting six-of-eight for 14 points, eight assists and just one turnover.

Connections

HEY! Rodney Stuckey is back.