This time, Pistons can’t overcome sputtering first-half offense as 11-win home streak snapped
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 108-89 loss to the Indiana Pacers at Little Caesars Arena
NOT THIS TIME – The Pistons survived one gruesome first half within the past week, beating Portland despite their lowest-scoring first half of the season, 31 points. As in that game, they survived the first half against Indiana by playing gritty defense. Unlike the Portland game, the Pistons couldn’t carry over their defense to the second half, when their offense awakened but couldn’t keep pace with Indiana’s. The Pistons scored 26 points in the first 10 minutes of the third quarter after a 36-point first half, but went scoreless over the last two minutes while Indiana closed the quarter on a 9-0 run to carry a 16-point lead to the fourth quarter. The Pistons made a run – Dwane Casey went to a four-guard lineup around Andre Drummond (28 points, 19 rebounds) down the stretch – but didn’t get closer than eight points with six minutes to go. The Pistons turned it over eight times in the first 10 minutes and were shooting 3 of 11 at that point, yet trailed by only eight points. Their biggest first-half deficit was 12 and they trailed by eight at halftime despite 10 turnovers and 31 percent shooting. The Pistons finished with 20 turnovers and shot 38 per overall, 27 percent from the 3-point arc. The loss snapped an 11-game home winning streak and leaves the Pistons even at 39-39 with four games left. They still control their own playoff destiny, but Orlando’s win over the Knicks reduces their margin for error.
1 BACK, 1 OUT – Blake Griffin’s status was upgraded to questionable on the NBA afternoon injury report, but Dwane Casey later said the team’s medical staff determined that Griffin shouldn’t play until he felt comfortable with the pain level in his left knee. Griffin has now missed as many games with his current knee injury, three, as he’d missed prior to that for the season. Casey said there is no structural damage and it’s more a question of “what he can tolerate.” Luke Kennard missed Monday’s game at Indiana with right foot soreness and left Bankers Life Fieldhouse in a walking boot, then was listed as doubtful on the NBA injury report issued Wednesday afternoon. But Kennard played and seemed to be moving without obvious discomfort. He scored 10 first-half points but went scoreless in the second half, missing three shots. Griffin spent most of the game on the bench in street clothes, engaged with teammates.
ON POINT – When the Pistons played so well after the All-Star break, they had both Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith contributing something pretty much every game. They can almost always count on one or the other of their point guards to carry them for a stretch to expand a lead or whittle away a deficit. But they both were well off of their peak levels in the first half. Jackson committed three turnovers in the first quarter, the last one – coming with 4:41 left – a charging foul that relegated him to the bench for the remainder of the quarter. That left Smith to finish out the first half, a stretch of nearly 17 consecutive minutes. He shot 1 of 5 with a turnover, though he managed to pick up three assists. It was Jackson who helped charge the offense in the third quarter when he scored 13 of the team’s 26 points, hitting 5of 7 shots – including a memorable crossover that sent Myles Turner backpedaling and to the floor on his backside before Jackson stepped back to drain an open 3-pointer. But when Jackson went to the bench late in the third quarter, the offense again stalled and Indiana seized control. Smith finished with seven assists but shot just 1 of 7, missing all four of his 3-point tries. Jackson finished with 16 points.