Every NBA team plays its division rivals four times during the regular season.
It’s rare to complete that series by early December, but that will be the case when the Indiana Pacers visit the Detroit Pistons on Friday.
The Central Division foes faced each other three times by early November. The Pistons won the first two meetings before the Pacers exacted a measure of revenge with a 112-106 victory on Nov. 8. Indiana won the series 3-1 last season.
Neither team had its best player available in the first three matchups this season. Detroit’s Blake Griffin was sidelined by hamstring and knee injuries, while the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo is still rehabbing from a serious quad injury sustained during the 2018-19 campaign.
The Pistons enter the final game of the series seeking to bounce back from a 127-103 home loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday. Detroit had won its previous two games by a combined 67 points.
The streaking Bucks collected their 13th consecutive win overall and 10th straight (including playoffs) over the Pistons.
“They’re the top of the East for a reason — top of the league, really, for a reason,” Griffin said of Milwaukee, which is actually tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the best record in the NBA.
“It was a good test for us. Second time we’ve played them on the second night of a back-to-back. But we’ve just got to be better.”
The Pistons were missing third-leading scorer Luke Kennard (16.5 points per game), who is dealing with tendinitis in both knees.
“That hurt us,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We felt like we needed another ballhandler. Against a great defensive team, you need multiple ballhandlers.”
The Pistons are hopeful Kennard can play on Friday. He’s averaging 24.3 points against the Pacers this season.
Indiana has won seven of its last eight contests and is in the midst of a five-game road trip.
Every member of the Pacers’ starting lineup has contributed in its recent surge. All have scored in double figures in each of Indiana’s past three victories and seven players have reached double figures in its last two wins.
The Pacers defeated Oklahoma City 107-100 on Wednesday. Forward T.J. Warren led the way with 24 points and power forward Domantas Sabonis supplied 17 points and 13 rebounds.
“We’re very versatile on both ends of the floor,” forward Doug McDermott said to NBA.com. “We can stretch out the defense with a guy like Domantas, who’s really good in the pocket and just finding us open players. We did a really good job of getting hot there. I think it starts with the defensive end and getting rebounds.”
The Pacers’ offense was efficient, as they shot 48.3 percent from the field and made just eight turnovers.
“We did a really good job of playing team basketball,” reserve swingman Justin Holiday told NBA.com. “Guys coming in and being ready. Try to play together and pretty much just try to find a way to get the win. That’s about it.”
The game on Friday is the front end of a back-to-back for Indiana. The Pacers head to New York to face the Knicks on Saturday to complete their road swing.
Detroit doesn’t play again until Monday, when it travels to New Orleans.
–Field Level Media