Indianapolis — In a matter of a couple of weeks, the Pistons and Indiana Pacers have gained some familiarity with each other.
Friday night marked the third time the teams have faced each other — in the first 10 games of the season. The Pistons won both previous meetings and have a chance to win the season series before all the leaves have fallen from the trees.
If both teams are vying for a playoff spot, it’s a potential tiebreaker that the Pistons could claim ahead of their final regular-season meeting on Dec. 6 at Little Caesars Arena.
“It has an importance, even this early in the season, just from that standpoint. We have to come out with a mindset of playing hard and we did (in the season opener),” coach Dwane Casey said after Friday’s shootaround at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“It’s almost like a playoff situation that you see guys so many times in a short period of time. It’s good and bad.”
Both teams have been without key pieces in the three meetings: Blake Griffin and the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo have yet to play a game this season. The Pistons were also missing Derrick Rose and Reggie Jackson, making it three of their main rotation players who were out Friday.
The Pacers didn’t have center Myles Turner or guards Jeremy Lamb and Edmond Sumner (Detroit Country Day).
The saying is that familiarity breeds contempt and though there have been three games in such a short time span, there’s some benefit to it in terms of competitiveness.
“You have that (chippiness) — and that’s good, as long as it stays where guys can perform and still play,” Casey said.
It’s a bit of a scheduling oddity in playing one team so often so early but given that the Pistons haven’t played a Western Conference team yet — they host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday — it adds to the uniqueness. They will have played only five games against the West by the time they start their first western trip on Dec. 28.
Griffin’s debut this season could come in the next few games, as he’s likely looking to ramp up his cardio before returning to the roster. With that change to the lineup, Markieff Morris will move back to the second unit, which has developed chemistry in the first 10 games.
Casey sees some subtle changes in store but with Morris’ presence in the second unit, it could be a boost given how he’s produced with the starters.
“It changes a little bit. Hopefully it won’t change our style of play with him in there than it would be with Christian (Wood),” Casey said. “More post-ups and still pick-and-rolls because Derrick will be in there. The juggling act when they all come back is they’ll all be on minutes limitations and juggling where we can get them in and use them at the end of the game, getting those minutes synchronized.
“Derrick and Blake will be on some kind of restriction. We’ve already talked to Markieff, so hopefully everybody is in sync.”
Rookie Sekou Doumbouya was set to make his debut with the Grand Rapids Drive in the G-League, on the road in Toronto against the Raptors 905. Doumbouya was in concussion protocol for the start of the Pistons’ regular season and will work his way with the younger players before he’s able to get more time with the Pistons.
Casey indicated the plan will not be to spoon-feed Doumbouya the ball to get him going on offense. Instead, they’ll bring him along slowly and let him learn the system.
“(It’ll be) all our stuff we’re running there. They’re running the same calls, so he’ll be used to running the same things while he’s there,” Casey said. “(There’s no isolation) because that’s (not) what it’s going to be when he comes here.”
The Drive have a back-to-back with a Saturday game against the Washington Go-Go, when rookie Jordan Bone could join them, as the Pistons don’t play Saturday or Sunday.