If you judge the Detroit Pistons by their record, you would think they are terrible at 14-24. If you instead look at what they have done in the last ten games since waiving Josh Smith, you would think they are one of the best teams in the NBA. Rick Carlisle certainly took notice after his Mavericks lost to these Pistons just one week ago.
"Right now, they're one of the best basketball teams in the NBA, just with the way that they're playing together and how hard and the kind of energy they're playing with," Carlisle said. "You've got to admire what they're doing."
Tonight, the Pelicans made the Pistons look bad. This is not to say the Pistons are bad, but what the Pelicans accomplished tonight was significant. As I noted in the game preview, the Pistons were 9-1 in their last ten games. The only loss was forgivable, to the absurdly hot Atlanta Hawks (22-2 in their last 24). In their wins, they were not just beating teams but destroying them. Only the Golden State Warriors had posted a better Net Rating.
None of that matters when the Pelicans bring their A game.
Playing Up to Competition
There is no concrete way to explain what the Pelicans have been doing recently. The most common themes are either a lack of consistency or playing up (or down) to the competition. That is not entirely true. Against three excellent teams in Houston, Memphis, and tonight Detroit, the Pels did not play up to their competition. Rather, they mauled their competition in a wire-to-wire rout that was never in doubt.
Our keys to the game were to "Cherish the Ball", "Make Shots", and "Eat Glass". Let's see how the Pelicans did.
Cherish the Ball: The Pelicans committed just 13 turnovers. Two of those 13 occurred in the final three minutes with the game in hand. With the guards taking care of the basketball (sans Eric Gordon's four turnovers, most of the dribbling the ball too far from myself variety), the Pelicans found numerous avenues to attack the Detroit defense.
Make Shots: Check. There were still a number of points left on the floor as Pondexter, Jimmer, and Ryno all failed to convert WIDE OPEN threes, but for the most part, the Pelicans made the shots professional basketball players should make tonight. Quincy Pondexter, in his first game as a New Orleans Pelicans (he was previously a Hornet), led the way making 3-5 behind the arc. Both misses were right on line as well.
Eat Glass: Omer Asik is a big body. Andre Drummond, 6'11", 290+, with arms for days, is a much, much bigger body. Well, Asik found a way to win this match up. In his last ten games, Drummond has averaged 12.9 points and 14.3 rebounds. Asik held him to 2 points and 2 rebounds. On the night, the Pistons collected 3 offensive rebounds and 30 total rebounds. The Pels, led by Asik, had 11 offensive rebounds and 47 total rebounds.
Stars of the Game
Tonight, four guys really stood out to me for different reasons.
Omer Asik: 8 points and 13 rebounds in just 26 minutes. He was a monster. He owned the entire paint all night long when he was out there. His size and strength obviously frustrated Andre Drummond. Drummond had 4 rebound opportunities (when he was within 3.5 feet of the rebound) tonight. No human can truly stand toe-to-toe with Drummond, Asik exceeded all expectations tonight. Omer Asik rebounded 50% of available defensive rebounds when he was on the floor. That is ridiculous.
Tyreke Evans: 18 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and just 2 turnovers. We still saw some of the ugly offense when either through his own volition or instruction for the sideline Tyreke would dribble out a shot clock and the Pelicans would settle for poor shots. The rest of it was gravy. Looking for AD every single time around the pick and roll or pop. The offense in total flows better with Jrue Holiday at the controls, but it is just as efficient with Evans. It just isn't as pleasant to the eye.
Quincy Pondexter: One play really stood out to me from Q-Pon tonight, and it was not his three made threes. After attacking an aggressive closeout, Pondexter drove the baseline and threw a pass just out of AD's reach. The ball was bobbled, ultimately ended in the hands of Davis, and resulted in an assist. Pondexter threw that pass where AD should be. The three 3-pointers, solid on and off-ball defense, and everything else was just icing to me. That pass was a veteran move.
Anthony Davis: Saving the best for last. Wow. Davis might have had more than four blocks tonight. 27 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, 1 steal, 1 assist, and 1 turnover. Everything felt in the flow of the game for him tonight and the jumper was working. Davis proved again he doesn't need to be fed to have a huge impact.
Stat of the Game:
The Pistons shot 15-28 on uncontested shots tonight. This wasn't a matter of the Pistons just missing stuff. They couldn't get a rebound because Omer Asik wouldn't allow it.