Positive: Improved defense fuels win
As recently as the last game against Toronto, defense has been the main issue by far for the Pacers this year, as they have the worst defense in the league, which has cost them many winnable games and also made some games much closer than they otherwise would have been.
While Friday started off looking like the same story, as the Pistons were shooting 44% from beyond the arc and leading the Pacers by two points going into halftime, it would not end like that.
Following a third quarter where they allowed the Pistons to shoot 56% from the field and 60% from three, the Pacers decided to ramp up their defense at the best possible time and make Detroit work for every basket.
Despite shooting great in the first three quarters, the Pistons were held to a mere 35% from the field and made a total of zero three-pointers in the fourth quarter. This was mainly due to the contributions of a few players.
First, Andrew Nembhard made his return to the rotation after missing three games due to back spasms. Despite being out for some time, Nembhard played like he hadn't missed a beat and made some fantastic defensive plays down the stretch.
Myles Turner was also fantastic all game, especially in the fourth, where he blocked two shots and grabbed seven rebounds, showcasing his elite rim protection during a time the Pacers really needed it.
However, the best defensive performance of the night came from Bruce Brown, who had two key steals and some transition points off those steals in the final minutes. Brown's tenacious defense, along with Nembhard's hustle and Turner's rim protection, led Indiana to hold Detroit to only 17 points in the fourth quarter as they gradually lost control of the game.
While this is only one game, Nembhard has shown how much the Pacers' defense missed him, as he provided some fantastic play down the stretch when it was most needed. Out of all the games Indiana has played, the fourth quarter against Detroit was by far the best they looked on defense all year, and with the Nembhard/Mathurin/Brown/Turner lineup came promise.
Indiana clearly has good defenders on the team, and this game showed that. Perhaps they need to run lineups with these guys on the floor more often to unlock that defensive potential that they clearly possess. Hopefully, this game serves as a building block toward a better overall defense, and Rick Carlisle eventually finds something that works.