INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers were not ready for their prime-time close-up.
In an ESPN nationally televised game, Oklahoma City knocked off the Pacers 100-95 on Wednesday night. Much of the attention was centered on Paul George’s return to Indiana.
After announcing he wouldn’t re-sign with the Pacers when becoming a free agent after the 2017-18 season, George was traded to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
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“I thought we settled, again. Our guys playing in this type of game and playing on national television, you have to control your emotions,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “And that was some of the things that I was talking about before the game, where you get on this type of stage and all of a sudden you start playing for you and not playing together. We’ve done a good job of that. We (got) away from that (Wednesday night); it’s one game.”
The Pacers (16-12) will play host to Detroit (15-13) on Friday night. The Pistons snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating Atlanta 105-91 on Thursday night. This is the final game of the Pacers’ six-game homestand. Indiana won four in a row before falling to the Thunder.
McMillan said the team had a good stretch and now it just has to put the loss behind it and get ready for Detroit. Victor Oladipo, who had a rough shooting night (9 of 26) against the Thunder, expects the Pacers to bounce back.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity in this room, but we just keep fighting, keep playing,” said Oladipo, who leads the team with 24.3 points per game. “Obviously I could have played better. I would have liked to play better. But it happens. It’s just one game. I have to learn from it and get better. I look forward to Friday.”
The Pistons’ starters appeared to get back on track Thursday night. Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond, Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris made a combined 7 of 31 from the field and committed 15 turnovers in a 19-point loss to visiting Denver on Tuesday.
“We can do whatever we want to do with the lineup, but the bottom line is to be a good team (those four) need to play well consistently,” Van Gundy told the Detroit Free Press before Thursday’s game. “If they don’t, and don’t play hard or whatever, we can put other guys in there, but we’re not going very far. Those guys are our best players.”
Entering Thursday night’s game, the Pistons were last in the league in field-goal percentage.
“I’m not trying to blame them, but that’s just facts,” Van Gundy said of the foursome’s struggles. “When we were 14-6, those guys were playing well.”
Perhaps those four got the message on Thursday night: All four scored in double figures. Harris led the team with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Bradley was right behind with 18 points, hitting 7 of 15 shots.
Jackson was 5 of 12 from the field for 11 points. Drummond was 4 of 11 en route to 12 points.
Before the game, Jackson said the Pistons hadn’t been getting off to strong starts.
“We’ve just got to do what we’ve got to do: Come out and just fight, kick, scratch, scream and find a way to be an aggressor,” Jackson said.
Trailing 31-30 after one quarter, Detroit took control by outscoring Atlanta 29-15 in the second quarter.