Indiana Pacers all-world swingman Paul George cradled the basketball on the floor while laying on his back before Kyle Singler coyly tried to kick it away after play stopped, prompting Pacers guard Lance Stephenson to have a not-so-friendly chat with Singler in a crucial moment of a close game. Singler chuckled at the mouthy Stephenson, while later, Andre Drummond gave Roy Hibbert a bloody mouth and Josh Smith delivered a physical forearm to Hibbert on another play, resulting in a foul called on Smith. While the Pistons stared down their fourth-quarter demons in the face one night after a debilitating loss to the NBA’s second-best team, they also did to the Pacers what the Pacers have done to everyone else the past few seasons in the way of agitation and physical play, winning 101-96 Monday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers came in owners of the NBA’s best record and one of two teams with undefeated records at home, while the Pistons came in ready for redemption after giving away a game in the waning moments. Again, Smith was the best player on the floor for the Pistons, showing precisely why $54 million was committed to him and why he’s such a matchup problem at the small forward position. He punished George and the rest of the Pacers inside for 30 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots, including one on David West with 48 seconds left and the Pistons hanging onto a four-point lead. “Tonight is an example of what I can do,” Smith said. “I understand it’s a lost art. I’m one of the few that takes it upon myself and hangs my hat on being able to play defense.” He made 13 of 29 shot attempts, while taking four 3-pointers (making one), a good enough ratio for Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks. “I think he shot four 3s and three of them were good (shots),” Cheeks said with a laugh. “He’s playing great right now.” Defense enabled the Pistons to hold onto a fourth-quarter lead, even after Stephenson had the joint rocking with a 3-pointer to pull the Pacers within two with 1:16 left, after they trailed by 11. “There are going to be games when you lead,” Cheeks said. “You have to be able to hold the lead and you know they’re going to come back.” Stephenson and reserve Luis Scola (10 straight in the fourth) threatened to rescue the Pacers after off-nights from George, Hibbert and West. The Pistons still looked a little shaky, but bearing in mind the Pacers play the league’s best defense this side of Miami, it’s easier to reconcile — especially with a win.
Josh Smith stars again as Pistons bounce back to topple Pacers
Detroit News | Dec 17