The Indiana Pacers have raced to the NBA’s best record on the
strength of their defense, which has been particularly stingy
around the rim.
They figure to face a strong challenge from one of the league’s
top frontcourts Monday night when they host the Detroit Pistons,
who must try to shake off a disappointing last-second loss.
Indiana (20-3) has reached the 20-win mark in the fewest number
of games in franchise history. The Pacers’ 11-0 start at home –
where they’re winning games by an average of 13.2 points – is also
their best ever.
Their league-leading defense has been the biggest reason for
their success. Opponents are averaging only 89.5 points on 41.1
percent shooting, with only two clubs scoring more than 87 points
Scoring near the basket against Indiana is especially tough,
with Frank Vogel’s squad holding teams to an average of 35.2 points
in the paint.
Detroit, however, scores inside more than any other team at 51.9
points per game in the paint. Its frontcourt trio of Greg Monroe,
Josh Smith and Andre Drummond is averaging a combined 42.9 points
and 28.1 rebounds. The ninth overall pick in 2012, Drummond is also
one of the league’s most efficient scorers, converting 61.5 percent
of his shots.
“Nothing we haven’t seen before, but they’ve been playing really
well,” Roy Hibbert told Indiana’s website.
The Pacers have won 10 straight at home in the series and 15 of
18 overall, including a 99-91 victory at Detroit on Nov. 5. The
Pistons outscored Indiana 46-42 in the paint but were held to 37.9
percent shooting. Smith scored 16 but went 5 for 16, and Drummond
was limited to six points and nine rebounds while Hibbert blocked
Detroit (11-14) put forth a dominant effort inside Sunday
against Portland with a 68-42 scoring advantage in the paint, but
lost 111-109 in overtime after Damian Lillard hit a fadeaway at the
It was perhaps the most demoralizing loss of the season for the
Pistons, who held a 13-point advantage early in the fourth against
the Western Conference’s top team.
“If this doesn’t sting, I don’t know what does,” said Smith, who
scored a season-high 31. “When I was in Atlanta and we were young
and we were in a lot of ballgames, but late down the stretch we
couldn’t figure it out – and then later we turned the corner.”
Detroit is 2-4 on the second night of back-to-back games.
The Pacers claimed a 99-94 home win over Charlotte on Friday
despite a sub-par performance from Paul George, who scored a
season-low 10 points on 2-of-12 shooting.
“He didn’t get a lot of clean looks,” Vogel said. “That’s on
George, who was averaging 24.7 points entering Friday’s contest,
was 12 of 18 with 31 points and 10 rebounds against Detroit last
The Pistons’ last win at Indiana came on Jan. 29, 2008. They’re
averaging just 84.1 points and shooting 39.0 percent over the last