Pistons drop fourth straight as Pelicans prevail with hobbled Davis
Detroit — In their defensive game plans, most teams try to take away the opponent’s best player and let the rest of the team try to produce enough for a win.
The New Orleans Pelicans have one of the best big men in the league in Anthony Davis, but the Pistons didn’t have to focus on him as much. After an injury scare in the first quarter, Davis missed the rest of the first half.
Davis finished with just six points — but the Pelicans' other starters had enough production to pull off a 116-108 victory over the Pistons on Sunday afternoon at Little Caesars Arena.
The loss continued the freefall for the Pistons (13-11), who have lost four straight, with another matchup against at Philadelphia on a back-to-back on Monday night.
Jrue Holiday had 37 points — one off his career high — and added five rebounds, five assists and three steals for the Pelicans.
“They have a lot more weapons than (Davis),” said Blake Griffin, who had 35 points and five rebounds. “We know that and that’s why they are such a solid team. When somebody goes out like that, you just have to put more attention to the other guys.
“More so, it’s just about executing the game plan than anything else. We just didn’t do that tonight, especially on Jrue Holiday. He played very well and we did not execute.”
Holiday went 14-of-22 from the field, including 6-of-10 on 3-pointers, and the Pistons didn’t have a defensive answer, though rookie Bruce Brown gave a good effort.
Griffin scored at least 30 points for the third straight game, the first Piston to accomplish that feat since Jerry Stackhouse in 2000-01. It’s becoming a pattern, especially with the injuries to three rotation players, which has forced the Pistons to go deeper into their bench.
Andre Drummond had 23 points and 19 rebounds, and Langston Galloway added a season-high 24 points — two off his career high — for the Pistons, who have dropped 12 of the last 13 meetings against the Pelicans.
Davis suffered an injury to his right hip in the first quarter on a collision with Griffin and went to the locker room to be examined. He returned in the third quarter but wasn’t nearly as effective in the second half.
Holiday and Julius Randle (28 points, six rebounds and five assists) more than made up the difference, getting to the rim and finishing easily.
“It starts with Jrue Holiday, just getting him under control,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s a tough matchup for Bruce. I think he competed his butt off but (Holiday) is just too crafty to contain him by himself.
“We tried Reggie (Jackson) on him but he just got to have his own way against us. He was the head of the snake and Randle did a heck of a job on his isolation.”
The Pistons’ perimeter defense struggled again without Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock. The Pelicans led, 78-62, at the 5:03 mark in the third quarter on a basket by Tim Frazier (14 points) but the Pistons chipped away, with Griffin (16 points), Galloway (10 points) and Drummond (eight points) scoring all of the points in the period.
The Pistons pulled within 93-91 at the 10:53 mark on consecutive baskets by Jon Leuer, but the Pelicans had a 7-1 spurt to keep them at bay. The Pistons got within 109-104 with 2:00 left on a Drummond basket but Nikola Mirotic (12 points) hit a basket.
► Brown is gaining a better comfort level on offense. Instead of just moving the ball around, he is becoming a bigger threat, taking it to the basket and either finishing at the rim. His shooting from the perimeter still is a work in progress, but the more he can take the ball with authority and become a better option, the more playing time he’ll get.
► Opposing guards are having their way with the Pistons in recent weeks — some would say recent years. Against the Thunder, Dennis Schroder got into the lane and to the basket easily. The same happened with Eric Bledsoe against the Bucks. The trend continued Sunday, as Holiday had his way on the inside. Casey said there isn’t much of a scheme change with their best wings out, but the eye test shows there’s a void there.
► Leuer had another good outing, with nine points and four rebounds in 13 minutes, a good step up in production from being a non-factor for most of the season off the bench. With Johnson’s absence (left knee contusion) the Pistons have had to scramble to get a frontcourt contributor, and in the past couple games, Leuer has answered the call.
► Missing two of their bigger contributors off the bench in Ish Smith and Johnson, the Pistons have found a productive unit with Jose Calderon, Galloway, Luke Kennard, Leuer and Zaza Pachulia. When the Pistons were struggling in the first quarter and into the second, the second unit played steady ball and helped keep them in the game. The same happened early in the fourth quarter, with Leuer scoring five straight points.
► Galloway is finding a groove in his shooting, especially with the second group, which moves more and he can get more looks and cleaner shots with their motion and cutting. Sunday was his 27th birthday, he was on track to reach his career high, but went cold down the stretch. This season, he’s played in all 23 games and he’s averaging 9.3 points, the second-highest total of his career.