INDIANAPOLIS – It’s rare you see an NBA game without one or more of those 14-4 or 18-6 runs that often wind up determining the winner. It’s even rarer to be able to pinpoint one play that sparked such a run and so clearly stood out as the game’s defining moment.
Friday night was one of those rare nights.
With the Pistons breaking from the gates decisively and leading by 15 at one point and consistently throughout the first 20 minutes, Andre Drummond gambled for a steal near mid-court from Domantas Sabonis that, had it been successful, would have resulted in a breakaway dunk and a 10-point Pistons lead.
Instead it resulted in his third foul and forced him to the bench for the last 4:31 of the first half. Indiana promptly went on a 14-0 run broken only when the Pistons scored the last two points of the half by converting a Pacers turnover into a layup. Without Drummond’s presence – his screens, his kickouts for 3-pointers, his offensive rebounding threat – the Pistons went nine straight possessions without a point.
“I don’t know what he was thinking,” Dwane Casey said after the 112-106 loss, the first to Indiana in three meetings over the season’s first 10 games. “In that situation, you don’t go for a steal at half court and just bowl over a guy. He had been playing well. We had been playing well up to that point. It just changed the game – changed the game totally.”
Indiana carried that wave of momentum into the third quarter, which the Pacers started on a 15-2 run, making it 29-4 over a span of less than nine minutes. For the other 39-plus minutes, the Pistons were the better team. For those minutes without Drummond – who picked up his fourth foul two minutes into the third quarter – they were adrift, digging themselves such a hole that there was no climbing out.
“Coach has been talking to us about being disciplined, being consistent with everything we do and I think we’re getting better at it – I really do,” said Luke Kennard, who after scoring a career-high 30 in the season-opening win at Indiana 16 days earlier came back with 29. “The vibes in the locker room, they’re really, really good. Everybody wants to do the right thing. But we’ve got to discipline ourselves and hold ourselves accountable.”
Kennard would’ve – should’ve – had a new career high, but a layup that replays showed was clearly blocked after the ball had already caromed off the glass wasn’t called goaltending. Add a Thon Maker 3-point shot that minutes later was ruled no good because it came a millisecond after the shot clock expired and those five points would have made it a different game in the last two minutes when the Pistons pulled within six with possession. Tony Snell missed a 3-pointer with 1:24 left that would have shaved the deficit to three. Kennard had another chance to pare the deficit to three with 15 seconds left but missed a triple.
“We’re down guys right now, so every single guy that’s touched the floor, it’s on their mind that, hey, we’ve got to fight every single night,” Langston Galloway said. “Being down men, you have to really lock in on that and just come together. That’s what we’re learning – how do we find a way to come together and battle back and try to get this win.”
The Pistons played without Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Reggie Jackson and Tim Frazier again, though the Pacers were without Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner and Jeremy Lamb. When the Pistons won at Indiana in the opener, they got 56 points off of their bench – 48 combined from Kennard and Rose. With Rose missing and Kennard elevated to the starting lineup to add punch to a unit missing its two best playmakers, Griffin and Jackson, Galloway’s scoring is needed more than ever. He scored a season-high 19 in 31 minutes.
“I’m just out there trying to help out wherever Coach needs me,” he said. “He’s put me on the best (scorer) coming off the bench for them and I’m trying to lock in on that. Scoring’s going to come. I just have to be ready to knock down shots and try to help out wherever I can on the offensive end.”
But the Pacers had more bench firepower in this rematch, getting double-figures scoring from T.J. McConnell, Doug McDermott and Justin Holiday to give Indiana seven double-figures scorers. McConnell’s eight-point, three-assist fourth quarter kept the scoreboard moving just enough for Indiana to repel the last-gasp comeback bid. At one point, he scored on four straight possessions as the Pistons struggled to stay in front of him in pick and roll.
“He came in and changed the game,” Casey said. “Our guards didn’t do a good job. We tried to change it up and get another body in front of him – still didn’t do that. He came in and changed the game, made the difference with his 17 points off the bench.”
But the biggest play was Drummond’s third foul, flipping momentum swiftly and surely.
“It was tough,” Galloway said. “He was battling for us, setting a lot of screens. He was really efficient with setting screens. It was tough having him get in foul trouble so early. He started off the game really strong. The foul trouble hurt us.”
“He wasn’t thinking in that situation,” Casey said. “Just a bad foul. Put us in a tough position. He knows it. He felt bad about it. But it put us in a tough place. We’ve got to have him in the game in those situations.”
Published at Sat, 09 Nov 2019 04:02:18 +0000