Andrew Nembhard

Game Rewind: Pacers 121, Pistons 115

Saturday, March 11 at 7:00 PM ET at Little Caesars Arena

Game Recap: Pacers 121, Pistons 115

Game Recap

All season long, the Indiana Pacers have boasted one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. That strength proved the difference in the Motor City on Saturday.

Despite both teams missing several key players, multiple Pacers (31-37) made the most of their enhanced minutes as the Blue & Gold earned a 121-115 win over the Detroit Pistons (15-53) at Little Caesars Arena.

The teams were tied at 90 going into the fourth quarter before the Pacers’ Jalen Smith, off the bench, scored 11 points early in the final frame to spur a 10-2 run that led to his team’s win. In the final 4:26 of play, the Pistons didn’t get any closer than seven points of the lead.

Smith finished with a game-high 20 points to go with nine rebounds while Isaiah Jackson, in a starting role for Myles Turner, who was out with a sore lower back, had season-highs in points (19) and rebounds (11). Pacers rookie Andrew Nembhard recorded 19 points and eight assists and Buddy Hield finished with 18 points and eight rebounds in the victory.

Other Pacers who scored in double figures included Oshae Brissett and Jordan Nwora, who recorded 11 points each.

Despite having a much different looking bench rotation, the Pacers’ reserves outscored the Pistons second unit 54-47 in the game.

“Everybody stepped up, everybody played the role they had to play, everybody had a factor in this win,” Smith said.

Before the game tipped off, the injury report for both teams was long.

Indiana was without four key players in Detroit, as Turner, All-Star starting point guard Tyrese Haliburton (bruised left knee), point guard T.J. McConnell (sore back) and rookie standout Bennedict Mathurin (right ankle sprain) all didn’t suit up. All of the players, minus Mathurin, who left Thursday’s game against the Houston Rockets with his injury, were announced out on Saturday.

Jackson got the start in place of Turner and Chris Duarte started for Haliburton.

While most of their injury report was unchanged from earlier in the week, the Pistons were without seven players due to injuries or illnesses, including Cade Cunningham, Bojan Bodganovic, Alec Burks, Isaiah Stewart and Jaden Ivy. Ivy was a late scratch due to health and safety protocols.

Detroit has now lost 11 straight games and continues to have the worst record in the NBA.

With the win, Indiana is just a half game back from the final Play-In Tournament spot. The top six teams in the Eastern Conference will automatically make the playoffs while seven through 10 will make the Play-In.

After trading the lead seven times in the first five minutes of the game, the Pacers used an 11-5 run – coming from five different scorers – to lead 28-19 with 2:21 left in the first quarter. Jackson came out with a hot hand, scoring nine points in the first 10 minutes and pulling down a pair of rebounds.

A floater and a 3-pointer from Nwora pushed the Pacers’ lead to 33-22, but in the final 29 seconds of the first quarter R.J. Hampton and Eugene Omoruyi both drained shots from behind the arc to narrow it to 35-30.

Two minutes into the second quarter, the Pistons used a 7-0 run to retie the game at 37 on four points by Jalen Duren and a three from Cory Joseph.

However, the Pacers responded in a big way.

Indiana used runs of 11-2 and 9-2 to retake the lead and go up 59-47 with 4:35 left in the half. During those stretches, Smith scored five points and Brissett had four.

The Pacers didn't trail the remainder of the half.

Four minutes into the third quarter, the Pistons outscored the Pacers 24-8 to retie the game.

Out of the break, the Pistons came out on fire: going on a 13-2 run – led by two 3-pointers from Rodney McGruder, one from Isaiah Livers and four points by Killian Hayes –  to cut it to 71-68.

After tying the game at 77, on another Livers 3-pointer, two 3-pointers by Hield helped the Blue & Gold back to the lead at 86-79 with six minutes left in the third quarter.

A 9-1 Pistons gave them the lead back at 88-87 and the teams were deadlocked at 90 going into the fourth quarter.

In the third quarter, the Pacers made just 8 of 28 field goals while getting outscored 33-21.

The teams traded the score four times before a basket by Smith, free throws by Brissett and a 3-pointer from Nwora put the visitors up 103-99. A 3-pointer by Smith then gave the Pacers some more room at 108 with seven minutes remaining.

Out of a timeout, baskets by George Hill, James Johnson and Brissett extended the lead to 114-103 by the 4:26-mark.

Seven Pistons scored in double figures. Livers scored a career-high 18 points, Hayes finished with 17 points and 13 assists and Duren totaled 16 points and 11 rebounds.

These two teams will meet again in less than 48 hours, as the Pacers will play again in Detroit on Monday. Indiana leads the season series 2-0.

“I want to see our young guys go out and do this again,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “I want to see them go out and play the same kind of game knowing that Detroit is going to make adjustments and it's going to be a little bit like a mini playoffs series.”

Postgame, Carlisle said the injured players that missed Saturday’s game won’t play Monday.

Inside the Numbers

The Pacers finished with 26 second-chance points, one point shy of matching their season high.

Indiana was two offensive rebounds short of matching a season high in that stat category.

Nwora has scored in double figures in eight straight games. He has played in all 10 games since being acquired via a trade in February.

Johnson recorded season-highs in minutes (21:42), field goals made (four), rebounds (five) and assists (three).

The entire Pacers starting lineup finished with negative +/- but the entire bench was positive.

Indiana shot 46.2 percent and Detroit shot 45.7 percent from the field. Detroit made 11 3-pointers and the Pacers drained nine.

Jackson recorded his fourth double-double of the season.

IND 121, DET 115 : Pacers coach Rick Carlisle's Postgame Media Availability

You Can Quote Me On That

“I thought our young guys played exceptionally well. I loved the way (Andrew) Nembhard ran the team. (Chris) Duarte did not shoot the ball great but he was playing the right way and he was doing some good things defensively. Isaiah Jackson did a good job in the third quarter, especially playing without fouling. We had a lot of guys that had really good nights. Jalen Smith was great. Our veteran guys were terrific. James Johnson had a really nice game and Geroge Hill was great too. The effort was really terrific. Proud of the guys.” – Carlisle on the win

“These guys had been playing short minutes, and at times longer stretches, but this (was) a great opportunity for them. They're both approaching it the absolute right way. We know these guys have this kind of ability.” – Carlisle on Smith and Jackson stepping up when given increased minutes

“He just had a really nice pulse on the game tonight. His shooting looks really good. He just plays the game the right way and he understands the game. He understands his teammates and he puts his teammates in a position to succeed.” – Carlisle on Nembhard

“I just try to let the game come to me. I knew I had big ball-handling responsibilities tonight. I just wanted to put guys in good positions as well as be aggressive myself to make that happen easier.” – Nembhard on his performance

“It meant a lot to me. My family was hyped about it as well. It was a lot of emotions coming in, but I don’t really feel pressure. I just went out and did my thing. My family being here, and being from here, gave me some confidence too.” – Jackson on winning in his home state and city

“With this group of guys, there was no pressure for anybody. We’re all hoopers. We all ball.” – Jackson on the team stepping up with key players out

Stat of the Night

The Pacers outrebounded Detroit 58-42 (18-12 offensive) in the game, falling one board short of their season-high of 59 rebounds set on Oct. 22...against the Pistons.

  • Indiana has put out 22 different starting lineups this season.
  • With Mathurin missing his first game, Hield is the only Pacer to have played in all 68 games this season.
  • Jackson, a Michigan native, played high school basketball in Detroit and was the state’s top recruit in 2020. He said he had around 60 family members in attendance during the game.
  • The Pacers lead the all-time regular season series against the Pistons 107-100.

The Pacers return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse to host Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, March 18 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets >>