INDIANAPOLIS – That’s how you bounce back.
Having lost 6 of 7 games, including 4 in a row, the Pacers (13-13) were a bit desperate on Thursday, facing a second night of a back-to-back.
They handled it well, pulling away from the struggling Pistons (6-19) in the second half for a 111-95 victory.
Nate Bjorkgren made a starting lineup change on Thursday, removing Jeremy Lamb and sliding Doug McDermott into the first group.
The move greatly helped balance out the scoring bunch.
McDermott’s range gave the first group a little more spacing, with Domantas Sabonis (26 points) and Malcolm Brogdon (18 points) pacing the scoring.
Lamb was terrific off the bench, scoring 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
Tied at halftime, the Pacers made their surge in the third quarter, outscoring the Pistons 30-18. That lead stayed in the double-figure range for basically the rest of the game.
Pistons leading scorer Jerami Grant was held to a season-low 9 points on 4-of-17 shooting.
Indiana went 14-of-31 from behind the arc, while the Pistons shot a woeful 5-of-28 from long distance.The Pacers will have one more road game on this trip (@Atlanta on Saturday) before returning home.
Three Things Learned
1. Pacers Make Lineup Change: Seeking a spark in the starting lineup, Nate Bjorkgren made his first change in a while on Thursday night. That was Jeremy Lamb going to the bench and Doug McDermott sliding into the starting lineup. The switch worked quite well against the Pistons. While McDermott had just 9 points on 4-of-10 shooting, his spacing and two-man ability with Sabonis is always a nice offensive piece. Lamb flourished with the second unit, scoring 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Is this something the Pacers can roll with until Caris LeVert and/or T.J. Warren return?
2. Starting Scoring Support: In the midst of this rut, the Pacers top two scorers have a hit a proverbial wall with all the production that the team needs from them. Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis have not been able to sustain the ‘fall out of bed and score 20 points’ run they had earlier this season. What is needed from those two is to start taking that growing attention towards them and turn it into successful offense via facilitating, which Sabonis did on Thursday with 8 assists (along with scoring). Brogdon and Sabonis are tremendous passers with great basketball IQ. When those double teams and frequent helps are thrown at them, their teammates need to be cutting and spotting up, and need to generally be ready to benefit from that attention. It’s too much to expect both Brogdon and Sabonis to score 20-plus every single night.
3. Jumbled Eastern Conference: As we have moved into the second third of the 2020-21 regular season, you find yourself looking at the standings a little bit more. In the East, things are incredibly jumbled in that middle tier. Entering Thursday night, 7 teams were separated by just 1 game in the loss column from the 5th to the 11th spot. That’s pretty wild, and is a spot where the Pacers find themselves. Considering the injury situation for the Pacers, no one should be too stunned to see them in this position, hovering around .500. With that though comes the realization that if the Pacers continue to be in this spot, they will be fighting to avoid the play-in for the final two playoff spots. When the regular season ends, the No. 7 and No. 8 teams in each conference will play each other for the 7th spot. The loser of that game will then face off against the winner of a game between the 9th and 10th teams. The winner of that will be the 8th, and final, playoff team. Again, it is just something to keep an eye on.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-@Hawks (Saturday, 2-13, at 7:30 PM)
-Bulls (Monday, 2-15, at 7:00 PM)
-@Timberwolves (Wednesday, 2-17, at 8:00 PM)
-@Rockets (Saturday, 2-20, at 8:00 PM)
-Spurs (Monday, 2-22, at 7:00 PM)