A win by the playoff-hopeful Indiana Pacers over one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference might usually have coach Frank Vogel thrilled. That wasn’t the case when that victory came two days after a loss to the lowly Detroit Pistons.
The inconsistent Pacers hope to build on their latest win and exact some revenge Wednesday night when they host the Pistons.
Indiana (33-42) owns a one-game lead over Charlotte in the race for the East’s final playoff spot, and swept the season series from the Bobcats with a 23-point victory in Charlotte last Wednesday.
Any momentum gained from that big win was quickly lost when the Pacers proceeded to drop their next two games to Sacramento and Detroit – two of the NBA’s worst teams. Indiana rebounded from those defeats with Monday’s 107-100 win over Boston, which is battling for the conference’s top seed.
“One day, probably when I’m old and gray, I’ll try to figure out what was wrong with us – why we can beat Boston, but lose to Sacramento and Detroit,” Vogel said. “I can’t figure it out, but we definitely needed this. We’re going to have to figure it out at some point.”
A couple of obvious reasons the Pacers lost 100-88 to the Pistons on Saturday were their starters struggling offensively and the whole team playing poor defense.
Indiana’s starting lineup had 45 points – 21 fewer than it had Monday – on 40.4 percent shooting with more turnovers (14) than assists (13). Reserve Brandon Rush had a team-high 19 points for the Pacers, who fell to 0-22 when failing to score more than 92.
They allowed Detroit (26-47) to shoot 51.3 percent and reach the century mark for the first time in five games. The Pistons, idle since that matchup, are 21-12 when they hit triple digits but just 5-35 when they don’t.
Richard Hamilton led Detroit with 23 points, while Charlie Villanueva scored 13 playing the entire fourth quarter after watching the first three from the sidelines. Coach John Kuester benched Villanueva for all of Friday’s 97-91 loss to Cleveland.
“I expected the same amount of time as last game, but at the same time I had to be ready,” Villanueva said. “We have nine or 10 games left. I’m not really worried about it. Whatever coach wants to do, I’ll back him up.”
The Pistons are on the verge of playoff elimination, six games back of Indiana with nine to play.
While the Pacers struggled defensively down the stretch Saturday, allowing Detroit to make 10 of 19 shots in the fourth quarter, they did a much better job late against Boston. Indiana limited the Celtics to 4-of-14 shooting in the fourth while outscoring them 26-15.
Roy Hibbert took advantage of Boston’s depleted front line to lead the Pacers on Monday with 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting. Two days earlier, Hibbert had six points on 3-of-10 shooting versus Detroit.
Tyler Hansbrough had five points Monday but could be in line for a better performance after scoring 16 against the Pistons. Hansbrough has alternated good and bad outings in his last six games, averaging 18.0 points on 60.0 percent shooting in three and 6.7 points on 30.8 percent shooting in the other three.
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