The last time the Pelicans squared off against the Pistons, they unexpectedly mauled them. Coming into that game, New Orleans had lost 3 of their last 4; on the other hand, Smith-less Detroit was on a roll, having had won 9 of their their previous 10 games.
This time around, the circumstances are much different. The Pelicans are 6-2 since the All-Star break, meanwhile the Pistons are 2-3. As to where New Orleans has found a way to deal with multiple injuries, Detroit has failed to overcome the loss of Brandon Jennings.
For Wednesday's match-up, the personnel will be different from the January 14th game. Besides no Jennings, Kyle Singer and DJ Augustin have been replaced with Reggie Jackson and Tayshaun Prince. That's right, Prince is back in Motown, but if he had his choice, he'd have rather gone elsewhere. This reunion was nothing like Kevin Garnett going back home to Minnesota.
Jackson, on the other hand, was ecstatic to leave Oklahoma City. He had reportedly asked for a trade prior to the end of October (the extension deadline for 1st round picks entering their 4th season), but when his request went ignored, he turned sour. He supposedly skipped a game, purposefully turned into a worse version of a black hole, and in general behaved like a malcontent.
Regardless of the truth of these allegations, his game has yet to flourish with it's new found freedom. In his first four games as a Piston, he's had trouble finding the bottom of the net (33 FG%). Worse, he's been shooting the ball nearly 20 times a game. Looks like someone is trying too hard to land a great payday.
3 Keys to Victory
- Clone Omer Asik. As you've probably heard, Anthony Davis' status has been upgraded to questionable. After the media witnessed his ability prior to the Mavericks game, this news isn't a surprise, but he's still not assured of taking the floor against the Pistons. If that ends up being the case, the Pelicans are going to have to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond have been a handful, especially of late, combining for 32.9 points and 24.5 rebounds a game in February. Omer Asik can guard one of them but who gets the other? Undersized Dante Cunningham or foul-prone Alexis Ajinca? Pray Anthony Davis is healthy enough to play, but if he isn't, Oshner cloning Asik, scary as that sounds, may be the next best option. On a serious note, the players on the floor shouldn't be afraid to help. Outside of Kentavious Caldwell Pope and Anthony Tolliver, the current roster has had trouble shooting it from the outside. As a last resort, foul. The Pistons are one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the league.
- Stop Penetration. Dallas had a field day in the paint taking to the rim via the dribble -- they had 50 points in the paint but just 9 offensive rebounds and 11 total assists. I'm sure much of that had to do with tired legs after the game against the Nuggets and Carlisle correctly mandating the offense to take advantage of this, but the Pelicans can't allow a repeat performance. Breakdowns in the defense will force one of the Pelican bigs to help and that's a recipe for disaster with Monroe/Drummond ready to pound the offensive glass.
- Push the pace. The Pelicans pace has slowed considerably since the start of the season, but if Anthony Davis is unable to go, New Orleans needs to find a way to create some easy baskets. As we saw against the Mavericks, strings of missed shots will happen; thus, it's important to have a plan B. The Pistons are one of the best at not putting opponents on the free throw line, so let's see the guards push the pace or attempt to create a few more turnovers before their defense is able to get set on that end.
Who: Pelicans vs. Pistons
When: March 4th, 7:00 CST
Where: Smoothie King Center Arena
How to Watch: NBA League Pass, Fox Sports South West