Granger scores 24; Pacers rally in last minute to knock off Pistons

INDIANAPOLIS -- Danny Granger loves playing the spoiler, especially against the Detroit Pistons.

Granger had 24 points and the Indiana Pacers stalled Detroit's bid for a higher playoff seed with a 106-102 victory Saturday night.

"I think it shows our pride, the pride we take in playing the game. Even though we're out of the playoffs, we're playing each game as if we're in," Granger said. "You love to be the spoiler."

The loss to Indiana won't keep the Pistons out of the playoffs, but it could force them into a first-round matchup with Cleveland, which has the best record in the Eastern Conference.

"It really don't matter to us, to tell you the truth," said Richard Hamilton, who led Detroit with 23 points. "We're already near the bottom in the playoffs, so at this point, regardless who we play, we can't worry about who we're going to play. We've just got to know that we made it to the playoffs and hopefully we can have a run."

Indiana and Detroit have been bitter rivals since the Pacers were involved in a brawl with Pistons fans in 2004. The Pacers' fortunes have plummeted since then, and they were eliminated from playoff contention for the third straight year with a loss at Atlanta on Friday.

With two games left in the regular season, Detroit has already clinched its eighth straight playoff appearance but is currently No. 8, a game behind Chicago. The Pistons host the Bulls on Monday night.

"There is no worst-case scenario for us right now, the way we've been playing all year," Detroit's Tayshaun Prince said. "The best-case scenario is we got in the playoffs, so hopefully we can go in there and do some damage. I don't think being the eight-seed that we're in a situation we can't handle. Any situation would have been tough for us, the way we've been playing, the ups and downs we've had all season."

Indiana led by 12 early in the final quarter, but Detroit rallied and took a 102-101 lead on a basket by Hamilton with 56 seconds to go. The Pacers went back in front on a spinning layup by Jarrett Jack and iced the game with one free throw by Troy Murphy with 16 seconds left and two foul shots by Granger with 5 seconds to go.

Hamilton led Detroit with 23 points.

Brandon Rush had 21 points for the Pacers, while Jack and T.J. Ford added 18 apiece.

Prince scored 18 points for Detroit, and Antonio McDyess and Will Bynum each added 16.

"I still want to concentrate more on playing good basketball," Pistons coach Michael Curry said of the battle for playoff position. "We did everything we wanted to defensively in the first half except come up with the rebounds. ... We did a much better job on that in the second half."

Bynum had 10 points in the fourth quarter and helped rally the Pistons from a 90-78 deficit. He had six straight free throws that pulled Detroit within 94-93 with under 4 minutes remaining.

The Pacers regained a 99-95 lead on a basket and free throw by Jack, but Hamilton pulled the Pistons within two points and hit a 3-pointer with 2:09 left to give Detroit its first lead since the first quarter. There were two more lead changes before Jack scored the go-ahead basket.

Indiana's biggest lead in the first half was 35-27 early in the second quarter, when a layup and free throw by Ford finished a 10-0 run. With reserves on the floor, the Pistons tied the game one more time before the Pacers began pulling away.

Game notes
Indiana's streak of missing the playoffs three straight years is its longest since a five-year drought from 1982-86. ... The Pistons are the only Eastern Conference team to make the playoffs each of the past eight years . ... The Pistons and Pacers split four games this season, although Detroit has won 11 of the past 15 overall against Indiana. ... Murphy had 13 rebounds but only seven points, keeping him tied with Clark Kellogg for Indiana's NBA team record of 47 double-doubles in one season.