INDIANAPOLIS — The dance returned Wednesday night.
When Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson bobbed his head from side to side, then put a quick move on Detroit Pistons forward Josh Smith and cruised in for a lay-up, he celebrated with a dance. A sellout crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse erupted in delight.
Stephenson’s basket and a 3-pointer from 35 feet out by forward Paul George were part of a high-powered offensive night that the Pacers had not seen in more than two weeks. George scored 17 of his 27 points in the second half of the Pacers’ 101-94 win over the Pistons.
“I was just trying to bring the energy back,” Stephenson said. “Get the crowd into it.”
The Pacers were coming off their worst three games in franchise history offensively, being held below 79 points in three straight losses. Monday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs dropped the Pacers beneath the defending champion Miami Heat in the race for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers topped 100 points for the first time since March 15, when they defeated the Pistons 112-104. Since then, the Pacers had lost six times and won just three. Until Wednesday.
“It was fun,” George said. “This was the most we’ve felt together in a while.”
“I think it’s a step,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said cautiously.
Forward David West added 15 points and guard George Hill had 12 for Indiana (53-23). Center Roy Hibbert and Stephenson each had 10 points as all the Pacers starters scored in double figures.
Josh Smith led Detroit (27-48) with 24 points. He scored 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting in the first quarter when Detroit led by as many as nine points. Pistons forward Greg Monroe added 17 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, and guard Rodney Stuckey came off the bench to score 16. Center Andre Drummond had 14 rebounds and 13 points.
“I thought Josh had it going good, especially in terms of being aggressive and scoring,” Monroe said. “I thought I had a pretty good game myself. We just wanted to come out and attack and be aggressive, and I thought we did that.”
The Pistons lost for the ninth time in 11 games. And while Detroit leads the NBA in points in the paint with 52 per game, the Pistons scored just 36 points inside to Indiana’s 40. Both teams had 47 rebounds.
“I can’t fault the way our guys played,” Detroit interim coach John Loyer said. “They competed their butts off against the best team in the East.”
George missed his first three shots from the field and did not score a point in the first quarter, but he caught fire in the third and fourth quarters to help the Pacers avoid their second four-game losing streak of the season. George hit 6-of-11 shots from the floor in the second half. He also had a team-high 12 rebounds.
The one shot that quickly turned into the conversation of the locker room was George’s 3-pointer from near the mid-court stripe in the fourth quarter. Hibbert grabbed an offensive rebound and launched it back toward George. He took one glance at the shot clock, saw it had not been reset and he took the shot. It hit nothing but net and gave the Pacers a 94-90 lead with 3:10 left.
“All I saw was 2.3 (seconds on the shot clock),” George said. “The only thing I could do was follow through (after the shot), I guess.”
“It was a big play in the game,” Loyer said.
NOTES: Despite a season-worst slide that resulted in the Pacers losing five of six games entering Wednesday, coach Frank Vogel said he had no intention of changing his starting lineup of F Paul George, F David West, C Roy Hibbert, G George Hill and G Lance Stephenson. “When we’re playing together and playing the right way, the starting five is one of the best in the NBA. I believe in it,” Vogel said. … Indiana backup G C.J. Watson, who missed his 11th game with a right hamstring strain, could return to action as soon as Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks. … Pistons C Andre Drummond has 50 double-doubles, the most in the Eastern Conference. His average of 12.8 rebounds per game ranks No. 1 in NBA history for a player age 20 or younger. Drummond is 19. … The Pistons, who are still mathematically alive for the last playoff spot in the East, will play four of their next five games on the road, including Friday at Brooklyn against the Nets.
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