(AP) — Having clinched the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers are free to focus on regaining their momentum for the playoffs.
They’ll try to do that by adding to a lengthy home win streak over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.
After suffering a close defeat a day earlier, Indiana (41-23) officially wrapped third place in the East with Atlanta’s loss to New York on Sunday. The Pacers’ finish is their highest since they had the best record in the NBA in 2003-04.
Indiana, though, is coming off the end to its first seven-game win streak since Feb. 28-March 12, 2004, and only its second defeat in 13 games this month.
David West tried to help the Pacers with a season-high 32 points and 12 rebounds Saturday, but they couldn’t hold on to a late lead in overtime during a 109-106 defeat to Philadelphia.
“They outplayed us when they had to,” forward Tyler Hansbrough said. “We knew they were going to be tough and we were going to need a lift to keep things going our way. We did some good things out there, and we will have to learn from them and carry them over into the playoffs.”
The Pacers will try to bounce back by earning an eighth consecutive home win over Detroit (24-40). They might have some help in that attempt after Darren Collison played for only the second time in seven games Saturday.
The point guard has been dealing with a nagging groin injury, while leading scorer Danny Granger had to endure a poor performance against Philadelphia, four points on 2-of-12 shooting.
Granger had at least 18 points in each of his previous 14 contests, but has struggled to get into a rhythm in two games this season against the Pistons. The Pacers forward has averaged 13.5 points – 5.2 below his season mark – on 30.3 percent shooting.
Granger, though, was one of the scoring co-leaders (16 points) in a 91-79 season-opening victory over the Pistons on Dec. 26 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He was 6 of 18 from the floor in that game and 4 of 15 during a 96-88 loss in Detroit five days later.
The Pistons enter this game having dropped seven of 10 but beat visiting Toronto 76-73 on Sunday. Ben Gordon hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2:44 remaining and tied Brandon Knight for the team scoring lead with 19 points.
“We just stuck it out and tried to be more persistent than they were,” Gordon said.
Gordon was one of five starters in double figures during the most recent matchup with Indiana. Jonas Jerebko led the way with 20 points and 12 rebounds but has scored a combined 15 points in his last three games, including two Sunday.
Jerebko has averaged 18.5 points on 60.0 percent shooting in the two games against Indiana, while Hansbrough has led the Pacers with 15.5 per game, his second-best mark against any opponent.
Detroit is 7-25 on the road this season and has beaten one team that currently has a winning record, Boston on Feb. 15, while Indiana is 22-9 at home and hasn’t lost to a sub-.500 opponent.