Tyrese Haliburton
(NBAE/Getty Images)

Game Preview: Pacers vs Pistons

Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7:00 PM ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse

Game Preview

Now, let’s back to your regularly scheduled Indiana Pacers programming.

After hosting a successful NBA All-Star Weekend in the Circle City, the Pacers (31-25) return to regular season action on Thursday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse when they host the Detroit Pistons (8-46) for a Central Division matchup, kicking off a four-game homestead.

The Pacers enter their final 26 games of the season in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic but trailing the Philadelphia 76ers (32-22), New York Knicks (33-22), Milwaukee Bucks (35-21) Cleveland Cavaliers (36-17) and first-place Boston Celtics (43-21).

On paper, the Pacers have a favorable remaining schedule, as just 15 games will feature an opponent with an above .500 record, 13 games will be played at home, and there are just two back-to-backs remaining. Indiana has played much better rested, as they’re 2-8 on the second legs of back-to-backs this season.

Before the break, the Pacers had won four of their last six games, including a 127-125 win over the Toronto Raptors on Feb. 14.

With a win, Indiana would clinch their regular season series against their Central Division foe, with one game left to play on March 20 in Detroit. Last season, the Pacers and Pistons split the series 2-2.

Going into the final stretch of games, the Pacers remain atop the NBA in points per game (123.7), field goal percentage (50.8 percent) and assists per game (30.9). The Pacers still have the highest-scoring bench (47.3 percent), and play at the second-fastest pace.

Seven players are averaging double-digit scoring for the Blue & Gold, with Andrew Nembhard (9.0 points per game) and T.J. McConnell (8.2 points per game) not far behind.

Pacers All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton continues to lead all NBA players in assists per game, averaging 11.7 on a nightly basis, while also topping his team in scoring at 21.7 points per game. Now having played 15 games with Indiana, newest Pacer Pascal Siakam is putting up 21.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists on a nightly basis, while veteran center Myles Turner also continues his solid campaign, averaging 17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

Thursday’s matchup could prove a high-scoring affair, as both teams are giving up 122 points per game this season. Indiana could be without one of its starters as forward Aaron Nesmith recovers from an ankle injury suffered right before the All-Star break.

After a nightmarish start to their season that included losing 28 straight games, the Pistons are 2-3 over their last five games – but have lost three in a row. Detroit hasn’t strung together more than two straight wins at any point this season. At one point this season, the Pistons had lost 34 of 35 games from Oct. 30 to Dec. 30.

The Pistons will look different than the last time the Pacers saw them, as they traded their second-leading scorer, Bojan Bogdanovic, who was averaging 20.2 points per game, and sharpshooter Alec Burks to the New York Knicks on Feb. 8 for  Malachi Flynn, Quentin Grimes, Evan Fournier, and Ryan Arcidiacono. In a separate transaction, the Pistons acquired Simone Fontecchio from the Utah Jazz.

Fontecchio has started two games for the Pistons since the acquisition and Fournier has played in just as many. Grimes has not played yet for the Pistons due to a knee injury and is questionable for Thursday.

Point guard Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft out of Oklahoma State, is leading the Pistons with 21.9 points per game and 7.5 assists, and former Purdue Boilermaker Jaden Ivey is scoring 15.3 points per game while dishing out 3.6 assists on average.

Two Pistons are returning to Indianapolis not a week after competing in Rising Stars during All-Star Weekend.

Ivey, a South Bend native, and Pistons center Jalen Duren both played for Team Tamika during the Painini Rising Stars game during All-Star Weekend. Ivey and Duren’s time on the court was short, however, thanks in part to a Pacers guard Bennedict Mathuirn, the eventual Rising Stars MVP, scoring 18 points to lead Team Jalen over Team Tamika.

Mathurin, who was selected sixth in the 2022 draft by the Pacers – one spot after the Pistons took Ivey – has consistently elevated his game when playing Detroit, including a 30 points, eight assists, seven rebounds outburst on Dec. 11.

In four games played against the Pistons dating back to last season, Mathurin is averaging 22.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists in his games against Detroit.

After hosting the Pistons, the Pacers will get a couple days rest before hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday and the Toronto Raptors on Monday.

Projected Starters

Pacers: G - Tyrese Haliburton, G - Andrew Nembhard, F - Bennedict Mathurin, F - Pascal Siakam, C - Myles Turner

Pistons: G - Cade Cunningham, G - Jaden Ivey, F - Simone Fontecchio, F - Ausar Thompson, C - Jalen Duren

Injury Report

Pacers: Jalen Smith - questionable (lower back spasms), Aaron Nesmith - out (right ankle sprain)

Pistons: Cade Cunningham - probable (left knee injury management), Isaiah Stewart - questionable (left ankle sprain), Quentin Grimes - doubtful (right knee sprain)

Last Meeting

Dec. 11, 2023: In their first game after the In-Season Tournament Championship against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pacers beat the Pistons 131-123 at Little Caesars Arena. The loss marked 20 straight for the Pistons.

The Pacers led 98-93 going into the fourth quarter before extending their lead to double digits after a three-point play by Myles Turner and six straight points by Tyrese Haliburton made it 129-113 with 3:31 left in the game. From there, the Pacers held on.

Seven players scored in double figures for the Pacers, and six players logged double-digit points for the Pistons.

Second-year guard Bennedict Mathurin led the way for the Blue & Gold, posting 30 points on 10-for-17 shooting while pulling down eight rebounds and snagging two steals, while Haliburton logged 14 points and 16 assists and Myles Turner scored 23 points. Mathurin was on fire in the first half, scoring 18 points.

Cade Cunnigham led the Pistons with 23 points, rookie Ausar Thompson put up 20 points and Jaden Ivey supplied 18 off the bench.

Thirty-eight combined fouls were called in the game, with Indiana shooting 14-for-19 from the line and Detroit making 23 of 30 free throws.

As a team, the Pacers shot 58.3 percent to Detroit’s 53.7 percent. The Pacers dominated the glass, outrebounding the Pistons 43-30.

Noteworthy

  • Indiana holds a 109-102 all-time regular season record over Detroit.
  • Last season, Bennedict Mathurin made the All-Rookie First Team and Jaden Ivey was All-Rookie Second Team.
  • Pacers forward Obi Toppin is five points away from 2,000 for his career.
  • Thursday night’s game promotion is University of Dayton hat night. Check out the special deal here.

Broadcast Information (TV and Radio Listings >>)

TV: Bally Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)

Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Eddie Gill (analyst), Pat Boylan (sideline reporter/host)

Tickets

The Pacers return to regular season action on Thursday when they host Cade Cunnigham and the Detroit Pistons at 7:00 PM ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Find Tickets >>