The Indiana Pacers finally lost a home game. Josh Smith and the Detroit Pistons went into Bankers Life Fieldhouse and dealt the Pacers a 101-96 defeat on Monday. Smith finished with 30 points on 13-for-29 shooting, plus seven rebounds and two blocks, guarding both David West and Paul George throughout.
While Detroit's ultra-big frontcourt of Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond has sometimes had spacing problems, it came in handy against Indiana. The Pacers typically stifle teams with their size, but the Pistons outscored Indiana 44-38 in the paint and grabbed 20 offensive rebounds to the Pacers' nine. Indiana center Roy Hibbert was limited to six points on 2-for-12 shooting and just four rebounds.
''We're forming an identity ourselves,'' Smith said, via the AP. ''That has to be being a physical team, try to dominate the paint.''
Detroit held George largely in check, as the all-star finished the game with 17 points on 4-for-14 shooting, plus nine rebounds and four turnovers. Sean Corp of Detroit Bad Boys credits rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for his defensive work:
I'm sure Josh Smith will get most of the headlines. He scored 30+ points for the second straight game, and also focused almost exclusively on working in the paint. That's important. But tonight what was even more important was the absolutely fabulous defense KCP displayed against Paul George. Caldwell-Pope was able to use his athleticism to stick to George like gum on the bottom of a shoe. George could never outrun him or outmuscle him. KCP was always in his face and on his hip.
A day before the win over the Pacers, the Pistons came oh-so-close to beating the Portland Trail Blazers, losing on a Damian Lillard buzzer-beater in overtime. Detroit is just 12-14 on the year, but if not for Lillard's heroics we could be talking about a Pistons team that had just knocked off the NBA's two top teams.
Smith scored 30 points on 13-for-17 shooting against Portland after struggling with his shot for most of the season. Perhaps that and the Indiana game represent a two-game aberration, but maybe Detroit is finding itself. With a relatively soft schedule to close out the calendar year, there's an opportunity for this team to put a streak together. This was a more than solid start.