AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—Detroit took another step toward earning home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs, while Indiana continued a slide that could keep it home during the postseason.
In fact, Jermaine O’Neal said the Pacers don’t deserve to make the playoffs.
Tayshaun Prince scored all of his 17 points in the second half to lead six double-digit scorers for the Pistons in a 98-73 victory over Indiana on Sunday.
Detroit (62-15) is a victory away from matching its franchise record for wins and barring a late slide, will likely finish with the league’s best record. The Pistons, who already have home-court advantage throughout the conference playoffs, improved to 35-3 at The Palace.
Both teams appeared lethargic for most of the game, and while Detroit wasn’t playing for much on this particular afternoon, the Pacers were.
Indiana has lost seven of eight to fall a season-worst four games under .500 and is in danger of not making the playoffs after starting the season as a title contender. The Pacers are seventh in the Eastern Conference—only one game ahead of Chicago and Philadelphia.
“The last two or three weeks have pretty much been the same thing. We just will not play defense,” O’Neal said. “At this point, we don’t even deserve to be in the playoffs.”
The Pacers started strong and didn’t trail until late in the first quarter. But after Detroit went ahead 13 seconds into the second quarter, it maintained the lead for the rest of the game.
The Pistons led 45-35 at halftime and had 20-plus point leads in the third quarter, allowing them to coast the victory.
“They looked a little tired in the second half,” said Prince, diplomatically.
Detroit’s Lindsey Hunter (14), Tony Delk (11) and Antonio McDyess (10) provided a scoring boost off the bench. Richard Hamilton scored 12 and Chauncey Billups had 11 points. Ben Wallace set a season high with 22 rebounds.
The Pistons outrebounded the Pacers 52-35 and held them to 36 percent shooting.
“When we come out with that type of focus and energy, it’s tough for teams to beat us,” Wallace said. “When we play like that, we make it look easy.”
“We are embarrassing ourselves each and every night,” O’Neal said. “There are talkers and there are doers. All we are is a talking team.
“I don’t know if we are tanking the season, or if we just don’t want to go to the playoffs, but we’re getting murdered every night on the defensive end.”
The Pistons clearly made an effort to get Wallace involved offensively— throwing him three alley-oop lobs in the first 5 1/2 minutes—after he told coach Flip Saunders he didn’t want to re-enter the game in the fourth quarter of the previous game.
Wallace was reluctant to talk about the details what happened Friday at Orlando, other than saying he didn’t regret what he did.
“I wouldn’t have got this far if I was a quitter,” he said.
Saunders said the two talked about what happened after the Magic game and downplayed it while talking to reporters before and after Sunday’s game.
“You can’t overlook everything he’s done for this organization and for me as a head coach,” he said.
Indiana’s Jamaal Tinsley (right ankle) and David Harrison (left knee) didn’t play. … Detroit won the season series 3-1. … The Pistons, who were coming off a loss, have dropped consecutive games only once this season. … The Pacers have played a team-record 31 lineups this season while Detroit had the same lineup for an NBA-record 73 games until the streak was snapped by Rasheed Wallace’s one-game suspension last Tuesday. … Kelvin Cato scored two points in his Pistons debut.