The Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons are battling for second place in the Central Division behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Pistons have the edge in the head-to-head matchups so far. The Pacers will try to get off to a better start and even the four-game season series at two wins apiece when they visit Detroit on Tuesday.
Indiana won seven of its last 10 games but often finds itself battling out of big holes and trailed by as many as 19 points against Brooklyn on Saturday before pulling out a 123-119 win in overtime. “We’ve still got to get off to better starts,” Pacers center Myles Turner told reporters. “We’re having trouble doing that, but I like the way that we’re responding.” The Pacers were outscored 27-19 in the first quarter and 34-20 in the third while hosting Detroit on Dec. 15 and had a fourth-quarter rally fall through in the 104-98 setback. The Pistons are winners of four of their last five after a rough stretch and began the two-game homestand by scoring the final seven points to earn a 104-101 win over the New York Knicks on Friday.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Indiana, FSN Detroit
ABOUT THE PACERS (19-14): Indiana leading scorer Victor Oladipo, who averages 25.3 points, managed 26 points against Detroit on Dec. 15 but was just 8-of-22 from the floor in the loss. The 25-year-old guard is averaging 31.3 points on 57.3 percent shooting in four games since that setback and carried the Pacers on Saturday with 38 points. “Oladipo. Gotta give the guy credit,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters. “He is playing elite, elite basketball. He’s one of the best players in the league right now. Give him a lot of credit. We didn’t really find the solution to stop him.”
ABOUT THE PISTONS (18-14): Detroit is 4-2 since moving swingman Reggie Bullock into the starting lineup, and veteran forward Anthony Tolliver is thriving in increased playing time as well. The two are a combined 28-of-52 from 3-point range over the last five games while helping to solidify the team’s defense. “That’s a big part of being a good player in this league,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters in reference to Bullock and Toliver. “Knowing who you are, playing to your strengths. Obviously, talent’s a big thing, but all these guys have talent. Really knowing what your strengths are and playing to them is a good thing.”
1. Pistons SG Avery Bradley (groin) sat out the last four games and is not expected to play on Tuesday.
2. Turner recorded a season-high six blocked shots on Saturday.
3. Oladipo is shooting 35.5 percent in three games against Detroit this season - his worst shooting percentage against any team Indiana faced at least twice.
PREDICTION: Pacers 112, Pistons 108