Pistons vs Pacers Game Preview - Mar. 26, 2011
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The Indiana Pacers' postseason hopes were dealt a slight blow with an uninspiring performance against a lowly opponent.
Fortunately for the Pacers, they've had better games against the next team they'll face.
As it tries to add to its lead for the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth, Indiana will try to continue its recent success against the host Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.
Indiana (32-41) was outscored 55-37 in the first half Friday en route to a 110-93 home loss to Sacramento, which entered with 52 losses. The Pacers' 35.2-percent shooting performance was their sixth-worst of the season.
Danny Granger scored 20 points, but Tyler Hansbrough - averaging 21.0 in his previous 10 games - had eight on 3-of-13 shooting.
The loss coupled with Milwaukee's 102-96 win at New York and Charlotte's 83-81 comeback victory in Boston trimmed Indiana's lead over the Bucks and Bobcats to two games.
"We can't relax," Granger said. "Every night you're playing against a team that can beat you. This should be a lesson for us. ... You can't lose to a team that you should beat and at home, at this point in the season. It's a bad loss for us."
With Milwaukee and Charlotte also playing Saturday, the Pacers have a chance to regain their previous advantage. They could fulfill half of that scenario against the Pistons (25-47), who have lost three straight and 14 of 19.
Their latest defeat came against NBA-worst Cleveland, 97-91 on Friday. Charlie Villanueva, averaging 11.1 points per game, was benched after exchanging words with coach John Kuester following his removal after playing fewer than nine minutes in a 100-94 loss to Miami on Wednesday.
"We just have to keep finding guys that will continue to play hard the whole time," Kuester said following the defeat to the Cavaliers. "No question about it, they had more energy than us. They played harder than us."
Indiana will try to add to that slump by winning for the eighth time in nine matchups with its Central Division rival. The Pistons, though, have given the Pacers all they can handle in their two meetings this season.
Brandon Rush's dunk with 5.4 seconds left gave Indiana a 102-101 home victory Feb. 23. A week earlier, the Pacers were denied a third consecutive win in Detroit with a 115-109 overtime loss.
Granger will try to continue his stellar play at the Palace of Auburn Hills to deny the Pistons their fourth win in five games there. The forward has averaged 32.0 points on 55.3 percent shooting in his last five trips to Detroit, and scored 28 last month while making 11 of 16 shots.
Pistons rookie center Greg Monroe has averaged a team-best 20.0 points against the Pacers this season, and scored a career-high 27 during the loss at Indiana.
Detroit and Indiana will meet for the final time this season Wednesday in Indianapolis.