The Pistons have had trouble over the years trying to get victories in Indiana in recent years.
Monday night was no different.
Although they were missing Blake Griffin (sore left knee) for the second straight game, the Pistons struggled to keep the Pacers out of the paint and in a game of runs, couldn’t answer Indiana’s final spurt.
The Pacers pulled away in the final minutes, securing a 111-102 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The loss ended the Pistons’ two-game win streak and kept the bottom of the East playoff race in a gridlock.
Wayne Ellington had a season-high 26 points, Reggie Jackson 22 points and Andre Drummond 18 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and four steals for the Pistons (39-38), who fell to 1-4 in games that Griffin has missed.
It was a night of missed opportunities, as the Heat, Magic and Nets all lost. The Pacers (46-32) improved to 29-10 at home, one of the best home marks in the East.
The Pistons had a 9-0 run midway through the third quarter and had a 68-67 lead at the 7:00 mark after a drive by Jackson. That started an 18-7 run, with back-to-back baskets by Drummond, pushing the lead to 77-74 The Pacers moved ahead after another 9-0 spurt, with a pair of baskets by Bojan Bogdanovic (19 points, seven rebounds and six assists) and a hook and 3-pointer by Myles Turner (17 points and five blocks).
Indiana took an 87-80 lead into the fourth with two free throws by Turner.
The Pistons pulled within 91-87 with a 7-0 run early in the fourth, but the Pacers answered again, with nine straight points, including a 3-pointer and lay-in by Doug McDermott. From there, the Pistons didn’t get within four points down the stretch.
► Missing Griffin for the second straight game, the Pistons didn’t look as anemic on offense, posting 33 points in the first quarters. They were able to hitch their wagon to Ellington and got some nice contributions from Thon Maker and Jackson. Getting other consistent offensive options will be critical if the Pistons are going to be without Griffin for any other games — and into the playoffs.
► Ellington has fit in really well with the starting group, as a creator and as a decoy. He’s found other ways to score inside the arc but he’s beginning to draw more double-teams, where teams aren’t allowing him to spot up and shoot from 3. His recognition and ability to find the open man has been a revelation; when others are hitting shots, he’s making them pick their poison. On one play in particular, he found Maker for an open 3 and it helped in the Pistons’ third-quarter run to grab the lead.
► If the Pistons don’t lead the NBA in fouls while setting screens, there should be an investigation. Zaza Pachulia seems to get one — or more — every game and the turnovers continue to add up. Drummond was called for one that negated a 3-pointer by Ellington and it seems to be a point of emphasis because the officials are continuing to call it quickly.
► Maker is finding himself in the right spots on the offensive end. He’s probably better suited as a 3-point shooter than Stanley Johnson was and he’s making them at a higher clip as well. His defensive presence has been well documented but his offense is improving as well. The next level might be getting more comfortable inside the arc and scoring there.
► The two teams will meet again on Wednesday at Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday and it’s unclear whether Griffin will be back. The Pistons also were without Luke Kennard (right foot), who was in a walking boot on the bench. The Pacers played without the injured Darren Collison and Wesley Matthews.