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The Pistons fell, 112-106, to the Pacers, in their third meeting in the first three weeks of the season. Rod Beard, The Detroit News

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Indianapolis — As shorthanded as the Pistons have been this season because of injuries, they need all the main players in the rotation they can get.

Losing even one thins out their margin of error.

When that one is Andre Drummond, it can be the difference between winning and losing.

It was on Friday.

Drummond picked up his third foul in the second quarter when the Pistons had the lead — and after he left the game, they never recovered. They gave up a big run and fell to the Indiana Pacers, 112-106, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

BOX SCORE: Pacers 112, Pistons 106

The Pistons led 51-44 with 4:31 left before halftime when Drummond got the third foul and the Pacers finished the quarter on a 14-2 run, taking their first lead of the game and never relinquishing it in the second half.

“I told Andre you can’t pick up your foul in halfcourt. He wasn’t thinking in that situation — just a bad foul — and it put us in a tough position,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We have to be disciplined in those situations. He knows it and he felt bad about it, but it put us in a tough place.

“We had our second-line guys in but (Domantas) Sabonis started having his way. Andre was doing a decent job keeping him off the boards, but we have to have him in there in those situations.”

Luke Kennard had 29 points, six rebounds and five assists. Drummond finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists and Langston Galloway had a season-high 19 points for the Pistons (4-6), who fell to 2-1 against the Pacers (5-4) this season.

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The Pistons made a furious rally in the fourth quarter, after the Pacers looked to put it away following two free throws each from Sabonis (17 points, 14 rebounds and six assists) and Justin Holiday (16 points) with 3:27 left, for a 108-95 lead.

Bruce Brown scored on a lay-in, Galloway made both free throws after a flagrant foul on T.J. Warren and Tony Snell (11 points) hit a 3-pointer to pull the Pistons within six with 2:01 remaining.

Galloway had another look at an open 3-pointer but it missed and Sabonis scored to push the lead back to eight. The Pistons couldn’t get another shot to fall until the final seconds for the final margin.  

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After scoring 30 points in the season opener, Kennard had another superb outing in Indianapolis, with 29 points on Friday. Rod Beard, The Detroit News

The Pistons’ comeback in the fourth quarter was thwarted by T.J. McConnell, who scored four straight baskets and feasted on the pick-and-roll and the Pistons’ inability to defend it.

“He came in and changed the game. We did not do a good job on him and tried to change it up to put a body in front of him,” Casey said. “He made the difference with his 17 points off the bench.”

After Drummond’s third foul, the Pacers had back-to-back baskets by Warren (17 points) and Malcolm Brogdon finished the run with seven straight points. Brown scored on a putback to trim the Pacers’ margin to 57-53 at halftime.

Without their best player so far this season, the Pistons’ defense and momentum was sapped and the decisive run showed how important Drummond is to their chances on a game-to-game basis.

“I don’t know what he was thinking (on the third foul). In that situation, you don’t go for a steal at halfcourt and bowl over a guy,” Casey said. “He had been playing well and we had been playing well — and it changed the game totally. We have to learn from it.”

The Pacers started the third quarter with the first four points and after a Kennard jumper, Drummond picked up his fourth foul and Warren converted a three-point play. That started a 12-0 run and the Pacers took their largest lead, 72-55, at the 7:49 mark.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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