Indianapolis — After a seven-game losing streak, the Pistons are once again regaining their footing.
Detroit held off a furious Indiana Pacers comeback attempt Friday, beating its Central Division foe 102-98 to collect its second win in a row on the road.
Reggie Jackson hit a pair of free throws with 18.1 seconds left to help seal the win following a missed go-ahead 3-pointer by Pacers forward Myles Turner.
“I think, to be good, you have to be able to win in different ways,” said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy. “Some nights it’s a little tougher. We had a tough fourth quarter and we were able to just grind it out.”
The win moves Detroit into a tie with Indiana in the Eastern Conference but effectively gives the Pistons the edge in the standings. They’ve won two of three against the Pacers this season, with both coming at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Both teams sit at 16-13 on the season and in the thick of the playoff chase. They’ll conclude the season series Dec. 26 at Little Caesars Arena.
The victory didn’t come without drama.
Ahead 95-79 after an Eric Moreland jumper with 9:03 left, the Pistons gave up a 14-0 run to Indiana over the next five minutes. Detroit center Andre Drummond’s offensive rebound putback and subsequent free throw with 3:44 left gave the Pistons breathing room with a 100-93 lead.
Drummond led the Pistons with 23 points to go with 13 rebounds in recording his 20th double-double of the season. Reggie Bullock added a season-high 15 points for Detroit, hitting 3-of-4 from 3. The Pistons connected on 13-of-32 (40.6 percent) from long range.
“Andre was big tonight,” Van Gundy said. “That last three-point play was a monster play.”
Indiana’s Victor Oladipo led all scorers with 26 points. Turner added 24 for the Pacers.
The Pistons were without their best defender, as starting shooting guard Avery Bradley was a late scratch with a groin strain. Rookie Luke Kennard made his first career start in Bradley’s place. Kennard finished with nine points on 4-of-6 shooting to go with five rebounds and four assists.
The Pistons started quick, taking a 7-0 lead after a 15-foot baseline jumper by Kennard, and led 27-19 to end the first quarter.
Detroit built a 14-point lead after a Stanley Johnson 3 made it 39-25 with 8:17 left in the half. Johnson was effective in his second game off the bench for Detroit, finishing with 13 points.
In fact, the Pistons entire bench shined, outscoring Indiana’s 43-22. Langston Galloway (11 points) and Anthony Tolliver (9 points) both connected on three 3s.
“We came off the bench and played the way we play,” said Johnson, who could thrive in the role as a primary scorer with the second unit after being moved to the role during the Pistons' struggles. “It’s a pretty good combination.”
The Pacers closed the second quarter with a 29-13 run, capped by Oladipo’s step-back 3 with 0.3 seconds left to give Indiana a 54-52 halftime lead, but Detroit opened the third with a 7-0 run to regain the edge.
“For us, the main thing is to keep everybody up,” Johnson said. “We have to maintain our goal heading towards the playoffs. We can’t worry about a losing streak or a winning streak. We just need to be the same team every night.”
Paul Shepherd is a freelance writer.