Pistons set NBA free-throw futility record in defeat

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

New Orleans — It’s difficult for any team to win when the shots aren’t falling. It’s even tougher when the shots aren’t falling from anywhere.

The Pistons followed their overtime win on Tuesday with a record-setting performance from the free-throw line — and not in a good way — in the back half of a back-to-back set against the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday. They haven’t won in New Orleans — against the Pelicans or Hornets — since 2007, a streak of seven losses in the head-to-head matchup.

Make it eight in a row.

With their woes, the Pistons fell, 109-86, on Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center, after one of the worst shooting nights of the season. And the Pelicans were without All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, who was serving a suspension because he received his 18th technical foul on Sunday.

BOX SCORE: Pelicans 109, Pistons 86

The Pistons (29-32) shot 3-of-17 from the free-throw line, setting an NBA record for futility, according to ESPN Stats and Information. They hit just 18 percent, al all-time NBA low percentage for a minimum of 10 attempts, including 1-of-10 for Andre Drummond, who was ejected in the third quarter after getting a flagrant-2 foul for pushing Pelicans guard Tim Frazier.

“It’s hard to win games when you go 3-for-23 from 3 and 3-for-17 from at the free-throw line, especially when you look at the first half and we’re down three and we were 0-for-8 at the free-throw line,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I mean, I don’t even know what to say. It’s pretty hard to play like that.

“It was a really, really rough night. You just can’t shoot the ball like that.”

The offense fizzled and the defense couldn’t keep up with Anthony Davis, who had 33 points (11-of-17 field goals) and 14 rebounds for the Pelicans (24-37).

Jon Leuer finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three steals and Tobias Harris 15 points. Drummond added 13 points and 17 rebounds before the ejection with 1:24 left in the third quarter.

Drummond was tangled with Frazier after a foul call and Drummond looked to push Frazier in the head area. After a review, the officials reversed their initial call and assessed Drummond with the flagrant foul, which resulted in an ejection.

At that point, the Pistons had closed a 13-point lead to 73-67, following a 7-0 run. Drummond split a pair of free throws — the first ending the Pistons’ streak of 11 straight misses to start the game — and Drummond followed with a dunk.

Harris added a dunk off a pass from Ish Smith and Harris added two free throws to trim the deficit to six before the game-turning flagrant foul.

That incident seemed to spark the Pelicans, as Frazier split the two technical free throws, followed with a putback on the next possession, then added a lay-in with 5.3 seconds left, pushing the lead to 78-67.

Marcus Morris (11 points) hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut it to an eight-point deficit.

Drummond had been active on both ends of the floor, though he was just 1-of-10 on free throws. Without Drummond, the Pistons didn’t have the same flow on either end of the court and the Pelicans pulled away in the opening minutes of the fourth period.

Davis was pivotal in a first-quarter surge, as he and Alexis Ajinca combined for 24 straight Pelicans points during a six-minute stretch. Davis had 16 of those points, including eight free throws, part of the Pelicans’ 22-of-23 mark for the game.

“It’s a little bit discouraging. Unfortunately, shots wouldn’t fall today,” said Reggie Jackson, who had eight points and four assists. “When you see the ball go through the net when you get to the free-throw line, it just makes shots easier. When you’re missing, it’s like the basket keeps getting smaller and smaller.”

Besides Drummond’s one free-throw make, only Harris (2-of-5) made one — and Morris was the only other Piston to attempt one, missing both of his tries.

The Pelicans finished the first quarter with a 31-18 lead but the Pistons bench whittled away, with an opening 9-2 spurt, including seven points by Harris. The Pistons closed to 53-50 at halftime, before Davis and Jrue Holiday helped stretch it back to an 11-point margin, 67-56, at the 7:04 mark of the third.

The Pelicans got the shots they wanted, hitting 50 percent (39-of-78) for the game.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard