Indiana Pacers (5-4) 112-106 Detroit Pistons (4-6)
Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse
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T.J. McConnell had his best game in an Indiana Pacers (5-4) uniform to date, as he led the Blue & Gold to a 112-106 victory over central division rivals Detroit Pistons (4-6) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers have now won their last four in Indianapolis after losing their first home game of the season to the Pistons on opening night. Victory also gives Indiana the chance to tie the four-game series between the two teams, after Detroit won the previous two encounters.
It was another encouraging performance given the ever-growing injury list that Nate McMillan has had to deal with. Myles Turner, Jeremy Lamb, Edmond Sumner, Goga Bitadze and Victor Oladipo all sat out on Friday night. The depth in the squad is much deeper than in previous years, with plenty of options now available to the Indiana coaching team once everyone is back healthy.
The match itself illustrated just how the season has unfolded for this Blue & Gold team. The first quarter was simply not good enough defensively, as the Pistons threw down 35 points and led by as many as 15 points. Communication wasn’t established between the starters, as Andre Drummond and Luke Kennard happily gobbled up the easy looks presented to them.
Then it clicked. The Pacers were resolute defensively and kept the scoreboard ticking over nicely. After that 35-point first quarter, Indiana only conceded 37 in the second and third quarters combined to turn the game in their favour. A 14-2 run towards the end of the first half gave the Blue & Gold a half-time lead which they never gave back up.
The next man up mentality, which has seemed to give this team an almighty boost, was continued by T.J. McConnell, who ran the show when he was the court. McConnell easily dribbled into the paint all night and either scored the bucket or found the perfect pass to a teammate to slam the ball home. He finished the night top-scorer with 17 points, including eight consecutive points in the third quarter, as the Pacers established a lead which rose as high as 17 points at one point.
17 seemed to the number of the night, with TJ Warren and Domontas Sabonis also ending the game with 17 points to their names. Domas also gathered 14 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.
In their previous matchups with Detroit, two factors had a heavy bearing why the Pistons came away with both wins – Andre Drummond and the bench. Drummond, who gathered 41 rebounds in the last two matches, only managed 13 this time around largely thanks to Sabonis and JaKarr Sampson. With four fouls to his name, the big centre couldn’t risk getting fouled out and had to be more conservative defensively in the second half.
The bench had been outscored by the Pistons bench on opening night and in Detroit last week by a combined total of 69 points. Last night, Indiana smashed Detroits second unit 51-28, with Doug McDermott getting into double figures for the second game running.
Indiana have gone 5-1 since their 0-3 start to the season and now sit over .500 for the first time this year. The Pacers will now look to continue their steady progression at the Orlando Magic (3-6) on Sunday.