INDIANAPOLIS -- Pacers coach Jim O'Brien might want to re-evaluate his point guards.
O'Brien benched T.J. Ford for 18 games, saying veteran Earl Watson and rookie A.J. Price gave the team its best chance to win. When O'Brien finally called on Ford, he put up 11 points and five assists in 23 minutes to help the Pacers beat the Detroit Pistons 107-83 on Friday night.
Watson wasn't with the team for personal reasons, and Ford took advantage. Though Price got his first career start, Ford provided a lift in the second quarter, when the Pacers outscored the Pistons 28-17 to take control.
"I thought he looked sharp," O'Brien said. "It's a credit to his professionalism. He showed everybody what he's all about, staying in a frame of mind and staying ready."
Danny Granger scored 25 points and Brandon Rush added 16 in one of the Pacers' most lopsided wins in the series. Only a last-second layup by Detroit prevented the Pacers from tying the franchise record for its biggest win over the Pistons, a 26-point blowout in 1995.
Ford had nine points on 4-for-4 shooting in the second quarter to help the Pacers take a 52-37 halftime lead and set the tone for the lopsided result.
Sitting out was strange for a player who had started 25 of 31 games before O'Brien made the change.
"Definitely, it is challenging, but I think I've grown as a professional," Ford said. "It's just making me stronger. It can only help me. I don't think it can get no worse than this."
Ford said he understood what was expected of him as a reserve.
"I don't have any frustration," he said. "It's my job, my role, the third point guard, somebody went down. I don't think the issue is talent. We know that's not the issue. The issue is they went in another direction, point blank. It's that simple."
Ford doesn't know if he'll remain in Indiana with the trade deadline approaching.
"It was up to me and the conditioning coach to make sure I stay in condition," he said. "At the end of the day, there's 20-something other teams out there, so I felt if my name was called, I got to be ready."
Ben Gordon scored 26 points and Rodney Stuckey added 16 for the Pistons, who had hoped to build momentum after beating New Jersey on Tuesday.
"We're one day on, and one day off," Detroit coach John Kuester said. "That's what it's been like. We've got to try and get some consistency."
It was the largest victory margin of the season for the Pacers, and their second straight game shooting better than 50 percent from the field.
One game after the Pacers scored a season-high 130 points against Toronto, they had one of their best defensive efforts of the season. Indiana had allowed at least 100 points in 12 of its previous 15 games, but held Detroit to 39 percent shooting.
Indiana led by 15 at halftime after shooting 52 percent in the first two quarters. The Pacers opened the second half on an 8-0 run to extend their lead to 60-37, and held the Pistons scoreless for the first 3:26 of the third quarter. Gordon beat the buzzer with a long jumper from the right corner, but the Pacers still led 76-56 heading into the fourth.
"We had looks early, but didn't convert," Kuester said. "We were forced to play catch up. We had energy early on, but we didn't make shots, and that deflated us."
The Pacers extended their lead to as many as 31 points in the final 12 minutes of their second straight win. They are a ways out of the playoff race, but they haven't given up with 32 games remaining.
"It's good, we're playing well," Granger said. "Back-to-back wins, but we have to keep plugging away. We're not completely out of this thing yet. There's always room to come back."
Pacers G Luther Head missed the game with a viral infection. ... Pacers F Tyler Hansbrough was out with an inner ear infection. ... O'Brien said he doesn't know when C Jeff Foster will return from a sore lower back. ... Detroit shot just 35 percent in the first half. ... Pacers G Travis Diener played for the third time this season and got a warm reception from the crowd. He went scoreless in six minutes. ... O'Brien returned to the sideline after missing the previous game because of a family funeral.
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