Dec. 31, 2011 at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Detroit
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: After opening with two of three at home, the Pacers (3-0) head into the most challenging schedule stretch of the season, with four in a row and 14 of the next 19 on the road. Coach Frank Vogel has said he hopes the team can keep its road record close to .500. Indiana was 7-12 on the road under Vogel last season and has been at or above .500 just twice in the franchise's NBA history (27-14 in 2003-04 and 26-15 in 1997-98). They're trying for their first 4-0 start since 2004 against a team they dominated in the season opener Monday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, leading by as many as 24 before settling for a 91-79 final. David West, Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert all had double-doubles as the Pacers outrebounded Detroit 53-40. That was the beginning of a trend for Indiana, which leads the league with an average of 51.3 rebounds and has had four players combine to produce eight double-doubles -- including three in a row from Hibbert, who's averaging 15.0 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.0 blocked shots and shooting 58 percent from the field. Indiana has pounded opponents inside, with 53 percent of its field goal attempts coming from within the lane but has shot poorly overall (.382), including a mark of .301 outside the lane.
SCOUTING THE PISTONS: The Pistons (0-3) are still looking for their first victory under Coach Lawrence Frank and in fact have yet to be competitive. After losing to the Pacers by 12, they lost to the Cavs by 16 and 11 to the Celtics, trailing by at least 19 in every game. Foul trouble was a factor the first time around against the Pacers as both Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey were sent to the sidelines early and the Pacers took advantage, building a 10-point first-quarter lead in their absence to set the tone. Stuckey recovered to score 17, as did Jonas Jerebko but both players have struggled since -- Stuckey shooting 5 of 23 and Jerebko totaling 18 points. The Pistons will regain the services of forward Charlie Villanueva tonight, thanks to a ruling by the NBA reducing his suspension by one game due to the shortened season.
KEY MATCHUP: The Pistons' only legitimate inside force, Monroe was overpowered in the opener but can cause problems if he avoids foul trouble. He scored 22 against Boston on Friday, making nine of 12 shots. Indiana's frontcourt is bigger, stronger and deeper and if Detroit cannot find a way to mitigate that advantage, it will be a long night for the home team.
QUOTE MARKS: "This is a good start but it’s only the beginning. We’ve got to continue to grow, defend well and come together with our offense." -- Hibbert
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, F Jeff Pendergraph (sprained right knee) and C Jeff Foster (sore blower back) are day-to-day. For the Pistons, no injuries are reported.
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 6 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 5:30. The radio broadcast is on 1070AM The Fan featuring Mark Boyle in his 24th season of play-by-play and Kevin Lee reporting.