Pistons-Pacers Preview

(AP) — The Indiana Pacers have relied on stingy defense all season long. That defense has recently let them down, however, as they’ve matched a season worst with three straight losses.

The Pacers might be poised to end that skid Wednesday night as they host a Detroit Pistons team that has lost eight straight in Indianapolis.

Indiana (26-19) is mired in its longest losing streak since Nov. 5-9, but hopes a return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse will help. The Pacers, 16-3 at home, have reeled off 11 consecutive victories in Indianapolis, their longest home winning streak since claiming 14 in a row from Nov. 28, 2002-Jan. 26, 2003.

The Pistons (17-28), conversely, are one of the league’s worst road teams at 5-16, and haven’t won in Indianapolis since Jan. 29, 2008.

Indiana’s defense has been one of the league’s best allowing 90.2 points per game, but it’s surrendered 100 or more points in each of its last three. It allowed opponents to reach triple digits only six times in its first 42 games.

The Pacers put together one of their best defensive showings of the season in their lone meeting with Detroit, limiting the Pistons to 38.6 percent shooting in an 88-77 road win on Dec. 15.

The Pacers, who are 2-13 when giving up at least 96 points, are also allowing opponents to shoot 52.3 percent during their skid – compared to 42.0 percent on the season.

In Monday’s 102-101 loss to Denver, Andre Iguodala converted the go-ahead free throw with 0.4 seconds left. Paul George had the ball stripped from him on the previous play while trying to set up for a last-second shot, then was called for a foul when he and Iguodala went after the ensuing Denver inbounds pass.

It washed away a comeback effort that brought the Pacers back from a 14-point deficit with less than seven minutes to play.

“We did a good job of fighting back under the circumstances,” said David West, who is the team’s second-leading scorer at 16.8 ppg. “We were right there. We had opportunities. We just didn’t get a chance to decide it. You just don’t expect a whistle to be blown in that situation.”

As bad as Indiana’s defense has been lately, Detroit’s has been even worse.

The Pistons are allowing an average of 109.7 points in their last three games – 13.1 worse than their season average. They’ve been particularly weak inside, surrendering 55.3 points in the paint after giving up 42.9 on the season.

Rookie Andrew Drummond was one of few highlights for Detroit in a 117-90 home loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday. In 28 minutes, he finished with 18 points and 18 rebounds, joining Dwight Howard as the only teenagers since 1985-86 to have an 18-18 game.

The Pistons led by 15 late in the first quarter but were outscored 78-40 over the game’s final 25 minutes.

“It doesn’t really matter what I did tonight – we lost the game,” said Drummond who leads all first-year players with 7.6 rpg and is second in blocks with 1.6 per game. “I’m just worried about bouncing back tomorrow against Indiana.”

The Pistons will have to do a better job against West than they did in the first meeting, as he finished with a game-high 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting.