Pistons' slide continues with lopsided loss to Pacers

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — The streak continues. And it’s not a good one.

For the seventh straight game, the Pistons’ final margin was double digits — and for the fourth time in that stretch, it was a losing margin.

The Pistons dug an 11-point halftime deficit and never got any closer the rest of the way, falling to the Indiana Pacers, 105-90, on Saturday night at The Palace.

Following Friday’s 16-point loss at Washington, it’s a two-game, double-digit slide, with much of the blame again pointing to the defense.

BOX SCORE: Pacers 105, Pistons 90

It’s the second straight loss overall and ended their seven-game streak of alternating wins and losses. At times, The Palace crowd booed the Pistons, who looked to have tired legs from back-to-back games, but Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t in the mood for excuses.

“We didn’t put enough effort into last night’s game to complain about being tired today,” he said.

That was just the start of the drama for the evening.

The Pistons talked about their problems in a postgame, players-only meeting in the locker room to hash out some of the issues.

“We put a lot of stuff on the table and everybody cleared their mind of what they needed to say,” forward Marcus Morris said. “It wasn’t a suggestion; (reserve center) Aron Baynes felt we needed to clear the air.”

The meeting came after another lackluster defensive performance, in which the Pistons (14-15) allowed more than 100 points at home for the first time this season.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 20 points, including five 3-pointers, and Reggie Jackson added 19 points for the Pistons, who were playing their third game in four nights.

Much like Friday’s loss, the Pistons stayed close in the first quarter, but withered in the second, when they were outscored, 28-18.

Paul George (26 points) and Jeff Teague (19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists) each scored seven in the second quarter for the Pacers (14-14), who shot 49 percent from the field in the first half.

“We always want to be aggressive attacking the basket,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “We want to get good ball movement; we want to play on the catch, stay aggressive going to the basket.”

In the first quarter, the Pistons took their biggest lead, 16-7, after three straight 3-pointers — one by Tobias Harris (13 points) and two straight by Caldwell-Pope. Myles Turner answered with a jumper and a 3-pointer before George hit a lay-in to cut the lead to two.

The Pistons had a seven-minute drought between field goals — from the 3:47 mark of the first to the 8:27 mark of the second, a 15-2 run for the Pacers — which helped turn a 24-18 Pistons lead into a seven-point deficit before Stanley Johnson’s lay-in ended the streak.

The go-ahead run included six straight points, with baskets by Teague, George and Al Jefferson (eight points, nine rebounds) and a 3-pointer from George with 0.9 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Pistons were without their leading reserve, Jon Leuer, who missed the game because of back spasms. He was averaging 18 points off the bench in the last two games; the Pistons reserves totaled only 20 in the loss to the Pacers.

The Pistons answered, with a dunk by Marcus Morris and a three-point play by Ish Smith, part of a quick 7-0 spurt that trimmed the lead to four with 6:46 left in the half. Morris later hit a 3-pointer to make it a 44-40 deficit but Teague responded with a 3-pointer.

The defensive lapses were due to some offensive issues, which is manifesting itself on both ends.

“We’re just not making anything. The ball’s not moving; it’s sticking and guys are letting the offensive frustration get to them at the defensive end,” Van Gundy said. “We’re not in a good place right now; you go through it at times during the season and we’re not very good right now. Our last four games have not been good, three of them. We’ve got to get it back together.”

The Pacers finished the half on a 6-0 run, with a pair of free throws by Teague, a drive by Thaddeus Young and a drive by George, to get the lead to double digits. Indiana blew it open with another big run, opening a 9-1 spurt, starting with back-to-back baskets by George.

That run pushed the lead to 64-45 and the teams traded baskets for most of the period, until the Pistons chipped away, with three free throws after Caldwell-Pope was fouled on a 3-pointer by Caldwell-Pope and a putback by Andre Drummond (nine points, 15 rebounds).

But George extended the lead again with a 3-pointer with 22.5 seconds left to make it an 83-69 lead entering the fourth. Another 10-3 run to open the period — with four points from Glenn Robinson III (12 points, career-best 12 rebounds) pushed the lead back to 19. @detnewsRodBeard