The Pistons (13-7) have won 10 of their last 12 games to take a one-game lead over Cleveland in the Central. Detroit been idle since grinding out an 87-83 win Friday at Orlando, which came one day after a 92-82 triumph at Dallas.
Chauncey Billups scored a season-high 31 points in Friday’s victory despite a strained hamstring and shoulder stinger, and is looking forward to going into a hostile environment on the road against a divisional rival.
“We love it,” Billups told the team’s official Web site. “I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we’re facing that kind of adversity. It’s a little more exciting than usual and that makes us play that much harder.”
The veteran point guard is averaging 17.9 points and 9.1 assists in Detroit’s 12-game surge and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 3.5-to-1 in that span.
While Billups is ready to go, Pistons coach Flip Saunders was more cautious ahead of the game since the Pacers (11-12) are expected to have starting forward Al Harrington back in the lineup and be close to full strength.
“With Al (Harrington) coming back, they’re a little bit different,” Saunders told the team’s Web site Monday. “They’ve had some injuries at times. They just haven’t been able to put a full group together. They’ve had games where they’ve looked really, really good and games where they’ve looked really, really bad.”
Harrington missed Indiana’s 106-91 loss Monday at Chicago due to food poisoning, but the Pacers also played without Marquis Daniels and Stephen Jackson. Daniels also had a stomach ailment, while Jackson was suspended one game for his run-in with coach Rick Carlisle during Saturday’s loss to Cleveland.
Without them, the Pacers came out lethargic and fell behind 42-25 after one quarter. Jamaal Tinsley—who played despite also being ill—and Danny Granger each scored 21 points for Indiana, which allowed Chicago to shoot 57.1 percent from the field.
“I was not happy with our play tonight,” Carlisle said. “Our play in the first quarter was abominable. We gave up 42 points and they shot something like 83 percent. Our defense was just not there.
Carlisle also said Jackson will be back in the starting lineup for this game, telling the Pacers official Web site that, “We need him to play (Richard) Hamilton, which is tough. We need him to play at a high level every night and to be one of our leaders.”
For his part, Jackson is ready to move forward, telling the Web site, “Me and Rick (Carlisle) had an understanding of the situation. It was something that had to be done.
“I’ve lashed out before and every time I’ve done it I was wrong.”
Jackson had scored 51 points in his two games before Saturday’s outburst, his best back-to-back efforts of the season. He is averaging 12.3 points despite shooting 38.4 percent.
Detroit won the last three games between the teams last season, including a 98-73 rout at home April 9 in the most recent meeting.