Pistons start strong but can't finish late, drop 13th straight to Pacers

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — The Pistons had a chance to stop their 12-game losing streak with another victory over the Indiana Pacers. Detroit's last win was Nov. 17 against Indianapolis at Little Caesars Arena.

The Pistons had a good start to the game, but as has been the case during most of the losing streak, they haven’t been able to finish out the second half the same way they started things. The result was a 122-113 loss to the Pacers on Thursday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Saddiq Bey tied his season high with 28 points and added 10 rebounds and five assists. Cade Cunningham finished with 19 points, six rebounds and four assists and Frank Jackson 18 points for the Pistons (4-23), who next face the Houston Rockets on Saturday at Little Caesars Arena.

Detroit Pistons' Saddiq Bey (41) puts up a shot against Indiana Pacers' Domantas Sabonis (11) during the first half.

"We've poured a lot of time into Saddiq and talked about how we can help him more,” said Pistons assistant coach Rex Kalamian, filling in for head coach Dwane Casey. “My message to him tonight was to be aggressive and if he had an open shot to take it."

Casey missed the game because of personal reasons, not related to COVID. Kalamian was the acting coach, facing Pacers’ assistant Lloyd Pierce, who subbed for Rick Carlisle, who is in health and safety protocols.

The Pacers (13-18) were on the second night of a back-to-back and had a slow start, falling into a 12-2 deficit in the first three minutes. Bey got off to a hot start with four free throws, while Hamidou Diallo had two baskets and a pair of free throws.

Indiana Pacers' Domantas Sabonis (11) goes to the basket against Detroit Pistons' Hamidou Diallo (6) during the second half.

BOX SCORE: Pacers 122, Pistons 113

Indiana answered with a 10-2 run, capped by a pair of 3-pointers by Justin Holiday (17 points) and a dunk by Chris Duarte (15 points, nine rebounds and four assists). Cunningham ended the run with a drive, but Duarte answered with a jumper.

Cunningham added a drive and a pair of free throws and the Pistons led, 20-16.

The Pacers surged ahead with a pair of free throws from Jeremy Lamb (11 points and six assists) and capped their run with a basket by Caris LeVert (31 points and five assists) for a 25-22 lead at the 2:35 mark.

Bey started to find his groove, with a dunk and a 3-pointer. But Duarte countered with a 3-pointer. Bey answered back with a Euro-step lay-in to keep the Pistons ahead, 29-28, in the final minute. The Pacers finished the quarter with a free throw by LeVert and a 3-pointer by Oshae Brissett.

“It’s a game of runs. They made a couple more runs than we did. It’s the little details of our rotations and playing physical without fouling,” Bey said. “We just have to work on doing it without fouling.”

Detroit Pistons' Rodney McGruder (17) puts up a shot against Indiana Pacers' Chris Duarte (3) and Jeremy Lamb (26) during the first half.

The Pacers were able to take advantage in the paint. Although their advantage was only 68-60 in points in the paint, they were very effective in their cutting to the basket and creating easy opportunities at the rim.

The Pistons had an advantage in fast-break points, 28-6, and the Pistons committed just 12 turnovers — a low number compared to most of the losses during the current streak.

"For sure, soft fouls early in the game allowed them to get some and-one buckets,” Kalamian said. “We talk about if they shoot free throws, that they shoot two and not one."

The Pacers had six opportunities for three-point plays in the game, part of their 25-of-28 night at the free-throw line. LeVert led the way, going 7-of-9 from the line and 12-of-18 from the field.

Kalamian, who primarily helps engineer the Pistons’ defensive game plan and strategy, said that they had some things in place to try to curb the Pacers’ cutting, but that they didn’t execute them well enough.

The Pacers stretched the lead to 70-64 at halftime after LeVert finished the quarter with their last nine points. The Pistons got within 72-62 after a lay-in by Cunningham and another basket by Diallo. Indiana answered with a drive by Brad Wanamaker and a 3-pointer by Holiday.

The Pistons got close after a 5-0 run, with a drive by Bey, a free throw by Isaiah Stewart (nine points and nine rebounds) and another drive by Cunningham, to get within 79-75, at the 7:40 mark.

The Pacers followed with an 8-2 run and pushed the lead back to 10 after a dunk by Myles Turner (16 points, seven rebounds and four blocks).


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard