Just when it looked like the Detroit Pistons had turned things around, they took a big step back last time out.
The Indiana Pacers are also looking to regroup after letting what appeared to be a couple of easy matchups get away.
Detroit tries to avoid losing two in a row for the first time in almost four weeks as it visits Indiana, where the Pistons have badly struggled but enter Friday night seeking their longest road winning streak in nearly 13 years.
The Pistons scored 94.4 points per game in opening 5-23, but they’ve averaged 105.8 in winning nine of 11 since releasing Josh Smith – with the first of those victories coming 119-109 over Indiana on Dec. 26. Detroit (14-25), however, reverted to its old ways in Wednesday’s 105-94 loss to a last-place New Orleans team.
En route to their lowest point total in 14 games, the Pistons were outscored 58-36 in the first half and trailed by double digits throughout the second. Detroit was outrebounded 47-30, its worst effort on the glass this season.
"That was a bad performance, and we have to make sure it stops tonight," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We didn’t do anything. We didn’t rebound and we didn’t protect the paint, which were two big areas of emphasis. We brought absolutely no energy whatsoever to the game."
The Pistons haven’t dropped back-to-back games since Dec. 19 and 21.
They could like their chances of extending that streak on the road, where they’ve won six in a row for the first time since March 2007. Detroit hasn’t put together seven consecutive road victories since Jan. 18-Feb. 22, 2002.
"We’re always a little bit worse at home and we have been all year," Van Gundy said. "Even during the 5-23 stretch we were better on the road. I don’t know what that’s all about, but we are a much more energetic team on the road than we are at home."
They haven’t enjoyed much success in Indianapolis, however. Detroit has lost 11 of its past 12 visits, with the last three defeats coming by an average of 19.3 points.
The bulk of those games, though, came against Pacers teams which finished first or second in the Central Division. The loser of this matchup will be alone in the Central basement.
Indiana (15-25) had won four of five at home – its best stretch there this season – before falling 110-101 to Western Conference-worst Minnesota on Tuesday. The Pacers were outscored 41-26 in the fourth quarter as the Timberwolves snapped a 15-game losing streak behind Mo Williams’ career-high 52 points.
Indiana had been coming off a 93-92 loss at lowly Philadelphia three nights earlier.
"It’s no fun losing to teams with poor records. It’s no fun. But it’s a long season," coach Frank Vogel said. "We believe in what we do. We believe in who we have in the locker room."
C.J. Miles scored 22 points against Minnesota and is averaging 19.4 over his last seven home games. He started in place of former Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey, who finished with 13 points while battling food poisoning.
Stuckey scored nine in his first matchup against his former team last month. Andre Drummond had 20 points, Greg Monroe added 19 with 15 rebounds and Brandon Jennings scored 14 to go with 10 assists as Detroit shot a season-high 54.7 percent.
Jennings is averaging 22.3 points over an eight-game stretch, but he’s been limited to 12.4 per game and 28.3 percent shooting in his last seven against the Pacers.
George Hill remains out for Indiana with a strained groin.