Pacers 3-point barrage erases 22-point Pistons lead in crushing loss

Luke Kennard came off the bench to score 18 points as the Pistons lost at Utah.
Gary Dineen (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

INDIANAPOLIS – The whiteboard inside the Pistons locker room boiled their loss down to its twisted, searing essentials: “76-54” it read on one line, “24-53” immediately below it, with “19:00” underlined alongside of it and then, underneath it all, “next 3 possessions.”

The Pistons led by 22 points just past the mid-point of the third quarter after a 20-2 run all but ran the Pacers out of their own building. But on those “next 3 possessions,” here’s what happened: Victor Oladipo hit a pull-up triple in transition, Bojan Bogdanovic hit another transition triple and then Bogdanovic hit another transition three.

Momentum turned just that quickly. The Pacers hit 11 of 16 from the 3-point arc in the second half and even if the Pistons’ transition defense was “horrendous” – Stan Van Gundy’s characterization – it’s tough to shoot 69 percent from the 3-point line in an empty gym.

In another era, you could say the Pistons got fat and sassy with a 22-point lead, but with the 3-point shot gaining greater prominence season over season it simply doesn’t surprise anyone any longer to see such a dramatic turnaround. The Pistons got outscored by that 53-24 margin over the game’s final 17-plus minutes, not quite the 19:00 the anonymous whiteboard author recorded, but such turnarounds are no longer the aberration.

Still, Anthony Tolliver – along with the rest of Van Gundy’s bench unit, responsible for building an 11-point halftime lead – felt the Pistons squandered an opportunity by pausing to catch their breath when they had the home team on the ropes.

“It’s human nature, unfortunately, but you have to fight your nature,” he said.” ‘Oh, yeah, we’re up 22, so one three’s not going to hurt us.’ But then they get another one, then they get another one, now they’ve got a little momentum and they feel a little bit better about themselves. They’re down 22 – you’ve got to stomp on ’em.”

With the Pacers throwing 3-point haymakers, their defense was correspondingly energized. The Pistons became stagnant offensively and wound up settling for too many contested jump shots late in the shot clock that only served to fuel more transition scoring chances for the Pacers.

“When they came back and hit back to back to back threes in transition, you could kind of feel momentum change,” Reggie Jackson glumly observed in a solemn locker room. “Their ability to keep the ball alive, get second-chance opportunities … we didn’t finish it out, all 48 minutes.”

“They flattened us out the last 18 minutes of the game,” Van Gundy said. “We were up 76-54, so we only scored 24 points in the last 18 minutes. They just had us flattened out, going one on one. Wasn’t good.”

The loss makes the Pistons 0-2 on a three-game road trip that concludes Sunday at Minnesota. It’s the first time this season they’ve lost consecutive games and the Pistons are now 10-5.

Among those 10 wins were five in which the Pistons came back from double digits.

“It’s the NBA. That’s what people have to start understanding,” Van Gundy said. “It happens every night. Cleveland did it at New York in the fourth quarter. It’s all the time now.”

But it’s the first time this season it’s happened to his team and now comes what he knew was coming at some point – the first run of adversity to confront the Pistons.

“We’ve been on the other side of this several times this year, so this is one of the first signs of adversity for us,” Tolliver said. “Losing two in a row, losing this one like we did. It’ll be a good test of our character to see how we respond next game.”

FAST BREAKDOWN

Three quick observations from Friday night’s 107-100 loss to the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

1-A GUT PUNCH – The Pistons have had their share of comeback wins – five from double-digit deficits – and now they know how it feels. That was a gut punch. Up 22 midway through the third quarter, the Pistons saw Indiana get back in the game and eventually overtake them with a barrage of 3-pointers. Indiana went 11 of 16 from the arc in the second half to give the Pistons their first back-to-back losses of the season.
The Pacers, down 11 at halftime, opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run but the Pistons responded with a 20-2 run to go ahead by 22 points. Then Indiana launched a comeback on the strength of three transition 3-point baskets and closed the third quarter on a 15-3 run to get back within 10 entering the fourth. The Pacers stretched the run to 27-6 and came within a point a few minutes into the fourth quarter, then an Ish Smith-fueled run opened the lead back to seven for the Pistons with seven minutes left. But the Pacers got consecutive triples from Corey Joseph and Lance Stephenson to again pull within a point and the Pacers went ahead on Domantas Sabonis free throws and a Stephenson put-back. The Pistons countered with five straight Tobias Harris points to lead by two. But two more Indiana triples – what else? – from Darren Collison and Stephenson put the Pacers ahead for good.

2-BOMBS AWAY – Until Indiana’s 3-point shooting became the story, the Pistons were again on a roll. Entering the game with a franchise-record five straight games with 12-plus made triples, the Pistons made it six straight, hitting 14 of 33. The bench got it going late in the first and early in the second quarters with Luke Kennard and Anthony Tolliver making a pair and Langston Galloway and Ish Smith one apiece. The bench hit six of the teanm’s eight triples in the first half, going 6 of 8. Luke Kennard hit 3 of 4 and had his third straight double-figures scoring game, finishing with 13 points. Avery Bradley also hit three triples with Tolliver and Reggie Jackson draining a pair apiece. The Pistons came into the game No. 7 in 3-point percentage at 38.2 percent, one rung below the Pacers. It played to form and ultimately decided the game.

3-MORE MORELAND – When the Pistons beat the Pacers last week at Little Caesars Arena, Boban Marjanovic played a role, scoring nine points with four rebounds in nine minutes. Stan Van Gundy went to him after Pacers veteran Al Jefferson overpowered Eric Moreland a few times in the post. But with Domantas Sabonis, who missed last week’s game with a calf injury, back in the Indiana rotation Van Gundy went with Eric Moreland as the backup center. Moreland had a bigger impact than his stats show, anchoring the defense for a second unit that established a double-digits lead early in the second quarter. Moreland finished with three rebounds and two blocked shots in 12 minutes. Jon Leuer, who sprained his ankle at Los Angeles on Oct. 31 and returned to practice on Tuesday, had a setback and has now missed the past seven games. Van Gundy said tests have shown no additional damage and Leuer’s status remains day to day.

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