Pistons outscore Indiana in OT thriller, head to All-Star break
So the road back is a long and treacherous one, but at least it was a journey begun in the right direction with a 115-109 overtime win over a team that had gone 7-2 since changing coaches late last month.
“Let’s be honest – every loss compounds something,” John Kuester said of the struggle the Pistons face when they return for the final 25 games. “We need a couple of breaks.”
And even though the Pistons led virtually wire to wire – Indiana’s only lead of the night came at 3-2 on Mike Dunleavy’s triple 30 seconds into the game – there was a sense of foreboding as the Pacers stayed on their heels throughout the second half.
Even after Ben Gordon’s circus layup with under five minutes to go gave the Pistons a double-digit lead, nobody breathed easy.
“It’s always a tale of two halves with us,” said Tayshaun Prince, the night’s star for the Pistons with 25 points and 11 boards. “We knew there was going to be a time when they were going to start making shots. But we stuck together. Usually, we’ve ended up on the bad end of the stick at those times and fortunately we were on the other side.”
The game was a crowd-pleaser all the way, with the shot clock often not getting to single digits and a modicum of fouls called. One the Pistons felt should have been whistled but wasn’t came as Prince attempted the game winner to end regulation, when Danny Granger hooked him before Prince left the floor, then bumped his arm as he shot, causing the ball to come nowhere near the rim.
Prince was told by one official he doesn’t call a foul on “bail-out” shots.
“I was very surprised,” Prince said. “I felt the contact, not just before I shot, but once I shot, too. I was also surprised at the reaction he gave me. But we kept our heads in it in overtime. (Rodney) Stuckey played well for us in overtime, attacking the rim, then (Ben Gordon) hit some tough shots for us, too.”
The question, as it always is for the Pistons after rousing wins this season, is whether they can sustain momentum this time. Somebody asked Prince if the All-Star break was coming at an inopportune time, given the rousing finish at The Palace.
“It’s coming at a good time,” he said. “We’ve played up and down throughout. Just because we got this win today doesn’t mean we need to keep playing. We’ve won a game, lost two or three, and we’ve been doing that all season long. I think this is a good time.”
Then Prince talked about the frustrations of the season.
“When you’re playing well and all of a sudden you come to the second half and things go totally opposite, it can be frustrating,” he said, “and I think that frustration has been showing.”
They played with a looseness and a swagger not much in evidence this season against the Pacers, and maybe that had something to do with the carrot of the break and the chance to get away from their frustrations for a long weekend.
The hope, as Kuester suggested, was that they can come back holding on to the type of enthusiasm that marked their play in Wednesday’s win.
“I thought our energy was great,” he said. “The players took ownership. When they take ownership and play with that type of effort, man, I’m not saying we’ll win the championship, but we’ll be very tough to beat.”
Somebody asked Kuester about the timing of the break.
“I know (players will) all miss me,” he joked. “A couple of them want to have individual instructions. But I think the break is good for everyone and hopefully we’ll come back with that same type of energy we had tonight. This is a game of mistakes, but when you do things with effort, you give yourselves a chance.”
A loss to the Pacers and they might have been out of chances. They still have very little wiggle room, but at least their weekend off won’t be devoid of hope for a fruitful stretch run.