By Jon R. LaFollette (@JonFilet)
The Pacers remain the lone unbeaten team in the NBA after defeating the Detroit Pistons 99-91 Tuesday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills, improving to 4-0 for the first time since 2004.
Paul George continued his early season success with 31 points – including 4-of-8 from 3-point land – and added 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Indiana, who were without starting point guard George Hill for a second straight game (bruised hip), opened the first quarter in precise fashion – shooting 61 percent from the field and amassing a 14-point first quarter lead.
The new look Pistons, who added size to their roster over the summer by signing veteran forward Josh Smith and trading for point guard Brandon Jennings, used their length to muck up the Pacers’ offense in the second quarter, holding the Blue and Gold to a paltry nine points on 21 percent shooting.
Victims of stingy defense, turnovers and inactive ball movement, the Pacers faced a 41-38 halftime deficit.
Akin to the team’s previous three games, however, it was a tale of two halves.
The third quarter was everything the second quarter wasn’t: efficient, high-flying and defensive minded.
The Pacers erupted for 36 points on 70 percent shooting and used their quickness to get behind Detroit’s lumbering defense for easy buckets – including an assertive alley-oop from Roy Hibbert to George.
Hibbert finished with seven blocks in addition to eight points and 10 rebounds.
Detroit’s Smith, a notoriously empty jump shooter, didn’t do his team any favors in the second half, going 1-of-7 from the floor – not realizing he was left open for a reason.
The Pistons shot 36 percent in the second half.
Up by as much as 19 in the fourth quarter, Detroit refused to go away. Led by Jennings and shooting guard Rodney Stuckey, they cut the Pacers’ lead to as little as six points with less than two minutes to play.
A late layup by David West, who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, put the game away.
A continuing concern for Indiana is their lack of ball security. The team’s 19.5 turnovers per game is fourth worst in the league.
The Pacers are at home tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the second night of a back-to-back against Central Division rivals Chicago.