Rod Beard of The Detroit News breaks down Monday's loss at New Orleans, which is Detroit's fifth straight on the road. Rod Beard
New Orleans —When a team has two superstars, the possibilities are greatly enhanced. When those two stars are Pelicans big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, it’s much easier to overcome some deficiencies.
For most of the first three quarters, it was Davis’ night. He tallied 30 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes before suffering an ankle injury in the third quarter. One superstar picked up where the other left off.
Cousins took over early in the fourth quarter and scored 15 of his 20 points in the final period, pushing the Pelicans to a 112-109 victory over the Pistons on Monday night at the Smoothie King Center.
The talented pair combined for 50 points and 20 rebounds and the Pistons (21-18) didn’t have an answer, stumbling to their third loss in the last four games, and fifth straight on the road.
Pistons coach discusses pathetic defensive effort in the team's fifth straight road loss. Rod Beard
“We’ve lost five straight on the road and all of them have been horrendous defensive effort, every one of them,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Pathetic defensive effort. I don’t think our effort is even close to good.”
Tobias Harris had 25 points, Avery Bradley added 24 and Ish Smith 16 for the Pistons, who trailed by as many as 14 points but tied it at 105 with 2:03 remaining in the game.
Cousins followed with a putback and Rajon Rondo a lay-in for a four-point margin at the 1:21 mark. Andre Drummond (16 points and 14 rebounds) scored on a lob from Bradley and Rondo added another basket with 49.6 seconds left to push it back to four. Drummond got an open dunk and the margin was just two but Bradley missed a jumper with 10 seconds left.
On the final possession, the Pistons trailed by three and called in inbounds play intended for Harris, but the Pelicans jumped the play and made the Pistons go to a secondary option. That ended up being a desperation corner 3-point try from Bradley that was off the mark.
“It was a play for Tobias but it didn’t materialize to get that far,” Bradley said. “I was open and Ish gave it to me and I tried to make a shot.”
That the Pistons even were that close took a big comeback. When Davis was injured, he split a pair of free throws, pushing the Pelicans’ lead to 81-71 and they looked to be in control.
The Pistons responded with the next nine points, with a 3-pointer and jumper by Bradley and four free throws by Smith to trim the lead to one.
The Pelicans finished the quarter with an 86-84 lead after Harris hit a pair of free throws. Harris added a floater and 3-pointer early in the fourth and the Pistons were ahead, 89-86.
That’s where Cousins took over.
Cousins hit a pair of free throws, then added a 3-pointer and scored on a drive. He added a three-point play and another drive, capping a 14-2 run with 12 of the points.
The Pistons’ deficit grew to eight but Bradley surged, with six straight points, including a 3-pointer and drive, to pull within 103-101 at the 4:06 mark. That was part of a 10-2 surge, with a putback by Harris and a lay-in by Reggie Bullock, to tie it at 105.
Van Gundy lamented a decision to start Reggie Bullock instead of Anthony Tolliver, whom he had used against most opponents with bigger frontcourt lineups.
“It was a mistake — that’s what it was,” Van Gundy said. “We played well last game and Bullock had been playing well. We kept him in and that was a mistake on my part.”
Here are more observations from the loss:
■ Stanley Johnson (hip flexor) gave it another try to play, but didn’t get in the game after a tough pregame warm-up in testing out the range of motion of the hip. He’s missed five straight games because of the injury and likely will give it another go on Wednesday at Brooklyn.
“Stanley could have gone but he just hasn’t played in so long. Andre had missed a game and he played in Philly,” Van Gundy said. “Stanley hasn’t played and I want to get him out there doing something. In retrospect, I wish I would have played him because he might have given us some defense, of which we played none.”
■ It was the first time the Pistons have faced both Davis and Cousins — and they looked to have trouble trying to match up and keep them off the boards. It’s a tough matchup, but the Pistons did a fairly good job, even with a smaller group.
■ Six Pistons scored in double figures, including Dwight Buycks, who had at least 10 points for the third time in the last four games. Buycks played 14 minutes and went 3-of-9 from the field, but made all four of this free throws.
■ The Pelicans had 17 turnovers but added nine blocked shots, including four by Jrue Holiday (14 points and six rebounds). They shot 56 percent from the field in the game and 60 percent in the second half.