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New Orleans — The seesaw ride for the Pistons is going up and down again.

After scoring their most points in a regulation game this season in the win at Houston on Wednesday, the Pistons drew some praise from coach Stan Van Gundy for their offensive execution.

Then the seesaw went back down.

The Pistons followed their 123-point outburst against the Rockets with one of their poorest defensive efforts of the year.

In the first half, they allowed 72 points — 10 points more than the previous season high — and barely threatened the New Orleans Pelicans the rest of the way, in a 115-99 loss Thursday night at Smoothie King Center.

BOX SCORE: Pelicans 115, Pistons 99

Van Gundy was terse in his postgame comments, getting right to the issue of the lack of effort on the defensive end.

“It was deplorable — it really was,” he said. “(In the second half) sure, we played a lot harder. The game was over, but we played a lot harder.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 23 points and Andre Drummond added 19 points and 22 rebounds for the Pistons (23-20), who split the first two games of a four-game road trip.

But the leaky defense didn’t have a lot of answers for the Pelicans, who shot 66 percent (29-of-44) in the first half, with 35 points in the first quarter and a 37 in the second — the most the Pistons have allowed in any quarter this season.

Anthony Davis led the way with 15 of his 32 points during the first-half outburst. He added six straight Pelicans points during a stretch of the fourth quarter when the Pistons were trying to mount a comeback, helping keep the lead in double digits.

CLOSE

Pistons writer Rod Beard breaks down the Pistons' 115-99 loss at New Orleans and the up-and-down efforts in recent performances.

The Pelicans led the entire game and were up by as many as 23 early in the third quarter, following three baskets by Omer Asik, for a 78-55 lead.

The Pistons worked their way back following a 9-0 spurt, with a 3-pointer and jumper by Caldwell-Pope, a basket by Drummond and a jumper by Reggie Jackson. The lead got back to 20 in the final minutes of the third, but Brandon Jennings helped spur a 9-2 run to finish the period.

Jennings (season-high 20 points and five assists) hit a 3-pointer, Stanley Johnson followed with a long jumper and Jennings added a jumper. Jennings had another basket and made two of three free throws and Johnson’s putback got the Pistons back within single digits, 90-81, with 11:09 remaining.

“I can live with the shooting; I got upset with our offense a few times tonight when I thought we just blatantly refused to throw the ball to open men,” Van Gundy said. “For the most part, I let the offense go, but we didn’t compete.”

Tyreke Evans (22 points, 10 assists) answered with a basket and Davis scored six straight Pelicans points to keep the Pistons at bay. Caldwell-Pope had a lay-in and 3-pointer between Davis’ makes, but the lead stayed at 12.

From there, the lead never got below 10 and the Pelicans cruised the rest of the way.

The Pistons had better ball movement on Wednesday night but couldn’t find the same touch early on, falling behind in the first few minutes, with Norris Cole hitting back-to-back baskets in the first quarter for a 9-4 lead, igniting an 8-3 run.

The Pistons got within 15-13 on a drive by Jackson, but Evans hit a 3-pointer and found Davis for an alley-oop to boost the lead back to seven.

Ersan Ilyasova had six straight Pistons points, splitting a pair of free throws, adding a lay-in and making all three free throws after being fouled. Caldwell-Pope scored the last four points on a pair of drives to make it a 35-27 deficit after the first quarter.

The Pelicans opened the second on a 7-3 spurt, with Ryan Anderson (13 points) scoring on a drive and making a free throw after a technical foul on Marcus Morris, his eighth tech of the season.

The lead stretched to 72-53 at halftime and the Pistons played catch-up the rest of the way.

“We can do whatever we want on offense but if we can’t stop anybody, we can’t win,” said Morris, who had four points. “It’s like every two or three games, we come out sluggish and it’s a battle every game. We just have to be better.”

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/detnewsRodBeard

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