Pistons take aim against Pacers
By Chris McCosky / The Detroit News
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AUBURN HILLS -- The Pistons didn't even try to couch it.
This is a big game.
Never mind their 13-game winning streak, which they achieved Monday afternoon with an 85-77 victory over San Antonio. Never mind that the game is sandwiched between the Spurs and another tough Western Conference opponent, Minnesota, on Friday.
The game tonight, at Indiana, has been red-marked for some time on the Pistons' calendar.
"We've definitely been looking forward to that game," guard Chauncey Billups said. "It wouldn't matter if we had lost 13 games. The streak don't have nothing to do with it. We've been looking forward to this since the last time we played them. It's Indiana, man. They are the No. 1 team right now, and we feel like we are the No. 1 team. And they've beaten us twice.
"That's why we are looking forward to playing them."
The Pacers, who have matched the Pistons' 13-game winning streak by winning 11 of 12, hold a 2 1/2 game lead in the Central Division. Their two victories over the Pistons have been by a combined seven points.
"Indy is on top and we got a nice little streak going, so that makes for an exciting matchup," Ben Wallace said. "We're trying to get to the top, so definitely this is a game we're going to have to get. We're going to be ready."
The Pistons remember that it was the Pacers who stopped the Dallas Mavericks' 14-game winning streak a season ago.
"We haven't beaten them all year," guard Chucky Atkins said. "It's going to be a dogfight. We have to be ready to compete and play at a high level for 48 minutes. As the streak continues, the games will keep getting tighter and tighter. Teams are going to come out and play their best, and that's going to be beneficial towards the end of the season."
One of the lesser plots in the Pistons-Pacers rematch tonight is the ongoing puzzle about whom will coach the Eastern Conference All-Star team. The coach of the team with the best record as of Feb. 1 gets the honor, and Rick Carlisle's Pacers have a 2 1/2 game lead over Larry Brown's Pistons.
Of course, neither coach is spending much time worrying about it. Carlisle, in typical fashion, won't discuss it. But, if he makes it, he and former Pacers coach Isiah Thomas would become the first coaches from the same franchise to work the game in successive years since Philadelphia's Gene Shue and Billy Cunningham in 1977 and '78.
"We're showing some resiliency,” Carlisle told the Indianapolis Star, “but I don't think there's anybody in that locker room who thinks we've done anything yet. We obviously want to contend for some big things, but we have to get into the playoffs and we have to get past the first round first."
The Pistons had to use the Detroit Fury's locker room Monday. A pipe broke in the sewage system, flooding the Pistons' room.
... The Spurs had won six straight games from the Pistons and eight of the last nine.