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PREVIEW: Indiana Pacers hope to end four-game skid in Detroit

Feb 27, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. (5) dribbles the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. (5) dribbles the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons own the worst record in the Eastern Conference, but the mood around the team is generally upbeat. The rebuilding squad showed signs of improvement the past two games.

They took the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers to double overtime on Saturday, then defeated the current favorite in the East, the superstar-laden Brooklyn Nets, on Tuesday. They will try to build on those encouraging performances when they host the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.

In their 122-111 victory over the Nets, the Pistons sliced up Brooklyn’s defense while snapping a four-game losing streak. Detroit shot 56 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from long distance while leading for all but the first minute.

“We protected the lead, we increased the lead and we didn’t give in at the end of the game,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “We were patient, didn’t get in a hurry down the stretch, and that was a sign of growth.”

Read More: RECAP: Jerami Grant powers Detroit Pistons to win over Brooklyn Nets

The reputation of Detroit’s Jerami Grant continues to mushroom. The forward tied his career high in each of the last two games with 32 points, enhancing his credentials for All-Star consideration.

“The beautiful thing about him is the sky’s the limit,” Casey said. “He’s not a finished product.”

The Pistons’ latest addition is far from a finished product, and they hope he can revive his career in Detroit.

Dennis Smith Jr., who was acquired from New York over the weekend in a trade that sent Derrick Rose to the Knicks, is expected to make his Pistons debut Thursday. Smith, who had fallen out of the rotation with the Knicks, likely will inherit Rose’s former role as the backup point guard.

“He’s a versatile guard,” Casey said. “He can get to where he wants to get. He’s a lot like Derrick. Derrick is an accomplished player, and this young man is trying to get there, but he’s got a lot of (Rose’s) skill set — speed, quickness and athleticism. So there’s a lot of things we can use him in within our offense.”

The Pistons, who are playing the front end of a back-to-back, haven’t faced Indiana this season. Detroit will make a quick trip to Boston to face the Celtics on Friday.

Though the Pacers made the playoffs last season, they were 1-3 against Detroit.

Indiana, which will be looking to end a four-game losing streak on Thursday, had a much different experience with Brooklyn on Wednesday, trailing 62-30 at halftime en route to a 104-94 loss.

Read More: RECAP: Kyrie Irving leads Nets past Pacers

Indiana shot just 39.1 percent from the field and its starters scored only 51 points.

“I don’t think we were moving the ball with a purpose,” Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “I thought we got frustrated. There was a number of things I would like to take back. Our overall moment wasn’t what I would have liked it to have been.”

There was a huge free-throw disparity, with the Nets making 31 of 35 while the Pacers were 7 of 11. Bjorkgren would like to see more aggressiveness from his players.

“We need to constantly be in attack mode and beat our man off the dribble so we can get into the paint and get them out of position,” Bjorkgren said. “I just don’t think we’ve had our opponents out of position much lately.”

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–Field Level Media