The Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers opened February by ending losing streaks. One of them can begin the month on a rare winning streak as the woeful Central Division foes meet Friday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Detroit (16-31) ended a five-game slide with Tuesday night’s 97-93 win in New Jersey, while Indiana (17-32) knocked off Toronto 130-115 that same evening to snap a three-game skid.
Each team has posted just three winning streaks all season - the longest being five games - and the only one each has had since Dec. 12 was a three-game run in mid-January. They’re in a virtual tie for 12th place in the Eastern Conference.
Plagued by injuries for much of the season, the Pistons had all but two players available against the Nets. Despite that healthy lineup, they needed Tayshaun Prince’s(notes) dunk with 45.6 seconds left to take the lead for good versus the league’s worst team.
Richard Hamilton(notes), who fed Prince for that alley-oop slam, scored 11 of his team-leading 22 points in the final period, including three free throws in the final 21.3 seconds. Backcourt teammate Rodney Stuckey(notes) added 21 points.
“We’re far from done,” said Hamilton, limited to 20 games this season due to injuries. “This is not over. We just have to get healthy. When you have all your guys, it takes a load off your shoulders. Now, we just have to play together a little, get some chemistry and we’ll be all right.”
Along with avoiding a fourth straight defeat, the Pacers snapped a four-game home losing streak with the win over the Raptors. Danny Granger(notes) had 23 points to lead seven players in double figures for Indiana, which set a season high for points while shooting 52.4 percent.
The Pacers earned the win with assistant coach Lester Conner leading the team. After attending a family funeral, Jim O’Brien is expected to return for Friday’s game.
“The guys gave me all they wanted, and I said, ‘Hey, you guys are telling me congratulations, it’s congratulations to you because you guys needed this more than I did,’” Conner said. “When the substitute teacher is around, you want to try to do good or try to test him to see what he has. Those guys went out and played their hearts out.”
Granger has led his team in scoring in each of the last five games against Detroit, averaging 29.6 points, and Indiana has won the last three. The former All-Star, averaging 20.4 points in 14 games since missing 16 with a foot problem, scored 25 in a 105-93 win at Detroit on Jan. 22 in the teams’ only meeting this season.
Hamilton had 27 points in that defeat and has averaged a team-leading 21.8 in the last four matchups with the Pacers.
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