Richard Hamilton scored 24 points and the Pistons’ defense stifled Indiana for a 79-61 win Sunday, in a matchup of teams with the top two records in the Eastern Conference.
The NBA’s top defensive team gave up the fewest points it has this season and held the league-leading Pacers to a season low.
Wallace scored just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting, but he solidified Detroit’s defense with eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
The Pistons were 0-3 against the Pacers this season, but they hadn’t played them with Wallace. Detroit is 16-5 since he was acquired from Atlanta in a three-team trade on Feb. 19.
“This is a completely different team,” said Indiana coach Rick Carlisle, who was fired in Detroit last year after two division titles in two seasons. “I’m hoping that we’ll get in position to have an opportunity to get to play them again.”
Indiana has already wrapped up home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Pacers could meet the Pistons again in the conference finals.
“If they keep playing the way they’ve been playing the last two weeks, they’ll be there,” Wallace said. “And if we keep playing the way we’ve been the last 20-something games, then we’ll be right there.”
Indiana may need to finish strong to stay ahead of the Western Conference powers and have the NBA’s best record when the regular season ends April 14.
The Pistons took the lead for good early in the second quarter, but couldn’t put Indiana away until an 11-0 run gave them a 70-53 lead.
They won their eighth straight at home despite making just 38.6 percent of their shots because they held Indiana to 32.4 percent shooting. Detroit set NBA records earlier this season by holding five straight teams under 70 points and 36 consecutive opponents under 100.
“It’s nice to see our defense get back to holding teams under 70,” Corliss Williamson said with a grin.
Ron Artest scored 16 points for the Pacers, who had won six of seven despite not being at full strength.
Jermaine O’Neal, who is still recovering from a sprained left knee, had just nine points in 37 minutes. O’Neal made two of his first three shots, then missed nine straight shots before finishing 4-of-15.
“I hurt my team a lot,” he said. “If I shoot better, I think we can win the game, because we were still in it late. I just didn’t give us any lift. I want to play 36-37 minutes a game and try to get healthy and get into a rhythm before the playoffs, but I have to play better than this.
“This was very disappointing, because we’re trying to clinch the best record in the NBA.”
Indiana’s Kenny Anderson started in place of Jamaal Tinsley and had six points and three assists. Tinsley, who missed his fourth straight game, did not travel with the team because he has the flu. The Pacers were also without Jonathan Bender, who watched the game in a suit from the bench. He has been on the injured list with a sprained right shoulder since March 24.
Both defensive-minded teams failed to provide much entertainment in the first quarter—Indiana led 18-15—but the coaches were amusing.
After Carlisle shouted at the officials from midcourt, about 20 feet further than coaches are supposed to stand, Detroit coach Larry Brown complained to them about where Carlisle was.
Then, Brown stood defiantly near midcourt as if he was marking his territory.
“You get in your box! And you get in your box!” official Mark Wunderlich hollered at both coaches.
Carlisle was fired by the Pistons after winning 100 regular-season games, two division titles and three playoff series in two seasons and was replaced byBrown.
Indiana’s previous season low was 71 points, in a win over Denver on Nov. 4. … Detroit reached 50 wins for the third straight year. … The Pacers (20-8) and the Pistons (17-11) are the only teams in the East with a winning record against the West. … Hamilton, who led Connecticut to the 1999 NCAA title, attended a concert featuring Beyonce on Saturday night, but he was glued to the Connecticut-Duke game on television in a suite. “Beyonce was here?”joked Hamilton, who planned to attend Monday’s national championship game.