Pistons try to keep churning out wins against Pacers
Marcus Morris is well aware how quickly fortunes can change in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
The Detroit Pistons have won their last two games, moving them into a tie for the conference’s eighth spot in the standings despite being four games below .500. They are among several teams in close proximity for the seventh and eighth spots, the last two playoff berths.
“It changes every other day,” said Morris, the Pistons’ starting small forward. “Right now, it’s so tight, you win two games, you’re in seventh. You win three games, you’re in sixth. Lose one, you’re in ninth. It’s tight right now, so we’ve just got to keep stringing good games together.”
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Morris had more than just a good game on Friday night, pouring in a career-high 36 points in a 116-108 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. He’ll try to keep that hot hand going on the second end of a back-to-back, as the Pistons play against streaking Indiana on Saturday night.
Morris’ frontcourt partner, Jon Leuer, is also feeling better about himself after notching a career-best 24 points against the Timberwolves.
“Basketball is all about rhythm offensively,” he said. “When you can get your first couple to go down, sometimes the basket just gets bigger.”
Detroit (23-27) will try to match its season high of three consecutive victories. Its inability to go on a big winning streak has been maddening for head coach Stan Van Gundy after the club won 44 games and reached the playoffs last season.
“We’ve got a game (Saturday) night. If we don’t win, we’ll be right back out of the playoff spot,” he said. “We just need to play well. We need to develop some consistency in our game and hopefully we’ll be able to do that.”
The Pacers (27-22) have reached that level of consistency in recent weeks, winning 12 of their last 16 games. They’ll carry a five-game winning streak into the matchup against their Central Division rival after disposing of Brooklyn 106-97 on Friday night.
Pacers forward Paul George and point guard Jeff Teague each scored 24 points.
“I think it’s just a sense of urgency in this group right now,” Teague said. “We know going into the All-Star break, we wanted to be playing well.”
Indiana was up by just three in the late going before Teague made a layup, a steal and two free throws to clinch the win.
“It’s on us, it’s on me for sure,” George said. “Jeff is just as scrappy, just as good defensively at sniffing plays out and getting his hands on the ball, making good plays defensively. It’s winning time as we like to call it, it’s what Indiana’s used to.”
The Pacers won the first two games of the four-game season series, with both played at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Indiana pulled away to a 105-90 win in the first matchup on Dec. 17 and edged away for a 121-116 victory on Jan. 3. George averaged 29 points in those games.
Indiana shot 58.1 percent from the field and 56.3 percent on 3-point attempts in that early January meeting.
Detroit has lost five of its last six road games, giving up an average of 113.2 points in those defeats.
The Pacers have several injury concerns. Starting forward Thaddeus Young suffered a left wrist injury on Friday. X-rays were negative, but he will have an MRI on Saturday. Reserve guard Rodney Stuckey, who has missed 16 of the last 17 games with an ankle injury, is questionable.