INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Once again, Indiana’s defense rescued a struggling offense.
Ron Artest scored 22 points, Jermaine O’Neal added 19 and reserve Austin Croshere had all 12 of his in the fourth quarter, as the Pacers overcame horrendous shooting and beat the Detroit Pistons 80-75 Friday night.
“We came out overaggressive, just trying to get to the bucket,” Artest said. “We were trying so hard to get back our style of play, we just couldn’t find ourselves.”
For the second straight game, the Pacers shot under 40 percent, and they were well on their way to their first two-game losing streak of the season. Artest hit only seven of 20 shots and O’Neal wasn’t much better at 9-of-20.
“You just try to make your next shot, get the next defensive stop. That’s the only thing you’re thinking about when you’re missing a lot,” Artest said.
The Pistons shot 51 percent through the first three quarters, but the Pacers held them to 30 percent in the final period. Detroit also had five of its 19 turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“They out-toughed us. They simply took the game,” Pistons coach Larry Brown said. “They hustle, they were more aggressive. Defensively, they shut us down.
“The bottom line is we played three quarters well enough to win. The fourth quarter, they dictated the way the game was going.”
The Pistons were ahead by 13 points in the first half and still led by as many as 10 early in the final period before Indiana rallied.
Croshere missed his first shot but hit four in a row to pull Indiana to 64-61. Artest then cut the lead to one point with two free throws, and minutes later a 3-pointer by Artest gave the Pacers their first lead since early in the game.
Two more free throws by Artest, a dunk by O’Neal and free throws by Anthony Johnson and Croshere finished a 17-2 Indiana run for a 74-66 lead, and the Pistons never recovered. Artest, Croshere and Johnson hit two more free throws apiece in the final 38 seconds.
“It didn’t look good,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “We were down 10 but the guys dug down deep and found a way to do it. With us, it starts at the defensive end. If we’re ever in a situation like that and believe shot-making is going to bring us back, it’s not.
“When you hold the Detroit Pistons to that number, you’re playing great defense,” said Carlisle, fired by the Pistons after last season.
The Pacers (20-7), struggling lately but still atop the Eastern Conference, seemed to come out of a recent shooting slump by hitting their first five shots for a 10-8 lead. They made only two of their next 19 attempts, however, and finished the first half with a season-low 33 points.
They matched that 33-point total in the fourth quarter.
“That’s the game right there,” Wallace said.
“When you get a team down like that, you have to put them away. … It seems like we had a couple of breakdowns, and that’s all you need, really, tochange the momentum of the game.”
A 3-pointer by Billups with 7:05 left in the first quarter was the Pistons’ first in their past three games, a span of 15 straight misses. … Referee Gary Zielinski pulled a muscle in his left calf late in the first quarter and did not return. Officials Bob Delaney and Kevin Fehr worked the rest of the game without him. … Indiana’s Kenny Anderson sat out the second half with a sore left foot. … The game was Reggie Miller’s 1,270th, tying him with John Havlicek for 13th in NBA career games and third in games with the same team. Miller had four points, putting him within two of passing Charles Barkley (23,757) for 14th place in NBA career scoring. … The 75 points by thePistons were their second-fewest of the season.