Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game #9 Review: Detroit Pistons

Indiana Pacers (5-4) 112-106 Detroit Pistons (4-6)

Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Date: 08.11.2019

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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.

Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game #3 Review: @ Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons (2-2) 96-94 Indiana Pacers (0-3)

Venue: Little Caesars Arena

Date: 28.10.19

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The Indiana Pacers (0-3) are the only side in the Eastern Conference to have not won a single game this season, after falling to an agonisingly late 96-94 defeat to the Detroit Pistons (2-2).

It was the second time in just five days that the Pistons have beaten the Blue and Gold, but the Pacers did begin to eradicate some of the errors they’ve made in their previous matches.

Andre Drummond, Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard all struggled to replicate their high scoring form from game one, which was largely due to Indiana’s defensive resilience.

The Pacers’ bench remains to be this team’s achilles heel. They were outscored convincingly once again, which must now begin to worry Nate McMillan. Justin Holiday has come in and done okay, but the likes of T.J. McConnell and T.J. Leaf need to do more offensively if they are to keep their place in the Pacers pecking order.

Brogdon had a quieter night but still managed to make it a third successive double-double. Domantas Sabonis was the biggest scorer of the night as he scored 21 points.

Detroit managed to keep Indiana at arms length through the first 36 minutes of this contest, but it was in the fourth quarter where the tide began to turn. Both Markieff Morris and Drummond committed four fouls each and subsequently left on the bench, as Pacers pushed hard. For the first time, we saw structure and defensive organisation, with rebounds being won on both ends of the floor.

However, for all their hard work at the back of the court, the Pacers struggled to capitalise offensively. The Pacers trailed the whole game until late in the fourth, with T.J. Warren dropping a lovely 3 in the corner to give Indiana a 94-90 lead. Kennard responded with a 3 of his own that, unfortunately for the Blue and Gold, went in via a ricochet off the rim which could have dropped anywhere. With a one point lead the Pacers only needed one more score which would have probably sealed the deal. If only it was that easy.

Brogdon struggled to shoot 3s all evening and missed two long-range opportunities before Rose drove to the hoop for the Pistons to give them a 95-94 advantage.

With one timeout left, Indiana had time on their side to try and get to the free throw line through a Detroit foul. Warren had eight seconds to play with, which was unbeknown to him. Panicked and feeling rushed, he threw the ball towards needlessly towards the basket, which was never going to go in. The Pacers then quickly fouled Kennard, who got to shoot twice from the free throw line. He scored one. With it a two-point game with two seconds left. Indiana knew a score would at least take it to overtime.

They went with the same move that secured a late win over Sacramento Kings (0-4) in India during the pre-season, with Warren the man to shoot. His shot rebounded back off the rim, and the game was done.

Lady luck is not on Indiana’s side at the moment, but the signs of improvement are there ahead of what will be their final game of this three-game road trip at the Brooklyn Nets (2-2) tomorrow.

Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game #3 Preview: @ Detroit Pistons

Opponents: Detroit Pistons (1-2)

Venue: Little Caesars Arena

Tip-off: 7pm ET, 11pm GMT

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Everyone will be expecting a more dogged performance from the Indiana Pacers (0-2) this evening, as they head to Michigan for an early season rematch with the Detroit Pistons (1-2).

The Pistons won the first encounter between the two teams on opening night in Indianapolis, but the Pacers have every intention to repay the favour as they search for their first league win of the campaign.

In order to do so, they will need to tighten up defensively and make sure they are the aggressors early on. Both Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon have echoed in the locker room previously that Indiana need to force their way into the game early on and control the tempo.

One man that caused Indiana havoc when the teams last faced off was Andre Drummond. His 32 points and 23 rebounds were instrumental in that Pistons victory, as well as his surprisingly accurate free throw shooting. Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard will also need to be watched much more carefully around the perimeter. It is unlikely they will shoot as freakishly well as they did last week against the Pacers, but if given an easy look or plenty of room to set then they will punish Nate McMillan’s fragmented team.

Victory over the Pacers on opening night remains Detroit’s solo win this season, having dropped their last two games at home. They will be desperate for get a first victory in front of their fans, but the challenge for them is to accomplish that with all-star Blake Griffin.

Jeremy Lamb is ruled out once again, which means Edmond Sumner will continue in his place in the starting lineup. The clash at Little Caesars Arena could offer a lifeline to Aaron Holiday, who wasn’t involved at all in Saturday’s 110-99 defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers (1-1). He’s got the ability to stamp his mark on a game, as proven last year when he reached double figures in over a dozen matches.

The Indiana bench was blown out the water by their Detroit counterparts last week. They will need to emphatically improve on the measly 16 points they managed to score first time around. It could be last chance saloon for the likes of TJ Leaf if they don’t roll their sleeves up and prove their worth to the cause.

Brogdon was the lone bright spark in Cleveland on Saturday with his 30 points, but he will need to be supported better on both ends of the floor by Sabonis and Myles Turner. The team are near the bottom of the team stats for defence, which is surprising given Turner’s blocking ability.

A win in Detroit will go a long way for the Indiana Pacers. Not only will it level the four-match series between them and the Pistons, or relieve some pressure off of the board, coaches and players’ shoulders. It will more importantly provide some much needed hope for the supporters, who are starting to worry about what this season holds for the Blue and Gold. Confidence is a huge factor in this sport, and the longer a winless run goes on, the worse it plays on the minds and bodies of all involved with the organisation.

That first Victory could be just what this team needs to get the shackles off ahead of a busy week.

Indiana Pacers 2019-20 Game #1 Review: Detroit Pistons

Indiana Pacers (0-1) 110-119 Detroit Pistons (1-0)

Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Date: 23.10.19

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Well that was an unexpected start to the 2019-20 NBA season for the Indiana Pacers (0-1), who fell to an opening night defeat to Central Division rivals the Detroit Pistons (1-0) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

A slow start to the first quarter and a tiresome end in the final quarter compounded the Blue and Gold to a first opening home loss since 2015. Whilst this new-looking Pacers side will no doubt need a dozen games before starting to gel together, question marks will be raised over some of the cracks exposed by a Blake Griffin-less Pistons team many tip to only just make the end of season play-offs.

Victor Oladipo, who looked slick in his blue suit, addressed fans at Bankers Life before tip-off by stating that this was going to a ‘special’ season. That may still come to fruition, but on these very early indications, maybe we all need to just wind down the expectation levels a little bit.

It wasn’t going to be the perfect performance – those are very rare for NBA teams on opening night. Many say it isn’t about how you start but how you finish the regular season. The second half of the campaign should be a phase where best case scenario Oladipo is back playing all-star level basketball, with the rest of the roster all injury-free and knowing one another like peas in a pod. It is imperative however, that at the start of the season you don’t find yourself playing catchup in the play-off hunt going into the new year.

This opening defeat may not be the start fans and the team was expecting, but there were plenty of positive signs to take from Wednesday night.

Two of which are Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, who made their presence known on the floor. Turner ended the game with 25 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Sabonis also impressed with his first double-double for the season (29 points, 13 rebounds). One of the big questions ahead of this game was whether or not these two could play alongside each other. In some cases it worked wonders, at other times it had it’s flaws.

Defensively they looked okay. The absence of Griffin made Sabonis’ night slightly easier marking Markieff Morris  – who only managed eight points. However both came up stuck against the like of Andre Drummond and against better, smaller, more agile opposition they will need to improve drastically. The lack of 3 attempts, especially from Sabonis, is also something that would need to work on. Turner sunk four 3 attempts, but he needs to be making five or six at least if Indiana want to average 30 attempts to score 3s every game.

Whilst it was the old guard who shone brightest, it was a mixed night for the new starters in the Pacers team. Malcolm Brogdon’s 22 points on debut is not bad reading, as he showed early signs of his formidable accuracy at the free throw line, range of passing and leadership qualities on the floor.

Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren however were more like bystanders, with both only scoring 10 points each and constantly nursing what looked like minor hip injuries. Warren was forced off with just under four minutes to play after a heavy fall, but x-rays have come back negative and he shouldn’t miss any game time.

Despite their slow start, Indiana ramped up the pressure in the second and third quarters. They obtained the lead for the first time just before the half, and at one point found themselves ahead by nine with the score 73-64.  Snippets of a team capable of a deep run in the play-offs were shown, but when Andre Drummond is against you, you know you’re not going to get it your own way.

The Centre ended the night one shy of his career-best score with 32 points and 23 rebounds for the Pistons, and he wasn’t the only man in Detroit colours who put in a freakishly good performance.

Luke Kennard will haunt the dreams of Indiana fans over the next few nights. His career-best 30 points from the bench was pivotal in getting the Pistons over the line. His 16 in the fourth quarter equalled what the Pacers bench tallied up in total – and that was between six men. Derrick Rose embraced the skillset which made him MVP in 2011, as he posted 18 points and nine assists again from the Detroit bench. Overall the benches were on totally different ends of the spectrum with Pistons outscoring their Eastern Conference rivals 57-16.

Communication in defence will be the major hole to fill – with Detroit making the most of easy 3 point attempts. With Indiana’s top defensive players focused on stopping Drummond getting in and around the frame, Kennard was able to gulp up every mid-range shot he could get his hands on. More structure on the defensive end will again come with each game played – but this should be an early wake up call for Nate McMillan’s team going into this winnable stretch of fixtures.

The Pacers will now go on to play three away matches – starting with a trip to 2016 NBA Champions Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.