The Detroit Pistons smacked the ‘ish’ out of the New Orleans Pelicans 118-98 on Wednesday at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The game was closer than that for the first three quarters, but Detroit Basketball won the 4th by an edge of 35-17 thanks to the dominance of former Pelican Ish Smith. The reserve point guard pushed the pace and his production limits, finishing with 15 points and 7 assists.
That 4th quarter advantage, combined with a run to end the 3rd quarter, was more than enough to overcome a good-but-could-have-been-better 31-point performance from Anthony Davis. He also had 12 rebound and 4 blocks, including two notable rejections against Andre Drummond early in the game after the giant had gotten off to a hot start. You may have thought, “hell yeah, we’re gonna ride AD and win this game big” after those blocks.
But we haven’t even gotten to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, maybe the most lyrical name in sports. I love this guy. KCP demolished his career-high in points, scoring 38 on 12-of-18 shooting, including 8-of-11 from three-point range. Jrue, Buddy, Solo, DC and E’Twuan all spent time on him, but his ability to sprint from under the basket, around a screen, make the catch, square his feet and get off a quick release was his bread and butter all night long. He even got to the free throw line eight times and had a few fastbreak dunks and layups off loose ball turnovers by New Orleans.
KCP has had an excellent year shooting and this was his statement game of the season; if not for Giannis in Milwaukee, he’d be a legit candidate to win Most Improved Player this year. He’s a JJ Redick-type that, when you see him have this kind of game, makes you badly want the player on your team — he makes it look easier than it is because of excellent speed and balance. His defensive capabilities, maybe overrated considering average metrics, could be superb in playoff-atmosphere games. And this was not the atmosphere of a playoff game.
Whistles were somehow absent and yet light and the first half breezed by with both teams saying, “here, now you score” to each other. The first quarter was more like a shootaround than a professional game: New Orleans shot 65 percent with AD scoring 16 points and blocking two shots. Detroit was right there with them, shooting 56.5 percent, with five made 3s. KCP already had 17 at this point with 4 long balls. When Andre Drummond (17 points, 6 rebounds), essentially a Dwight Howard-esque offensive player, is throwing in hooks with both hands, you know both teams are hot.
Wasn't expecting steady diet of Andre Drummond post-ups (8 pts, 4/5 FGs) but Pistons went to him a lot. Det 40-34 early 2Q. Pistons 57%— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) February 2, 2017
Drummond was tasked with guarding AD after Davis got going early. The Brow made a bunch of shots around the hoop against Jon Leuer, who’s pretty good, but he’s got nothing on Davis.
But Davis’ shots started rattling out in the second half and despite a cold spell from Detroit’s starters, the Pels couldn’t pull away in the 3rd quarter. While the Pistons were missing shots, Jrue got cooking with his playmaking: a couple of Solomon Hill 3s off his penetration put the good guys up 74-66. But then Stan Van Gundy went to his trump card: Ish Smith (+36) and his running buddies Aron Baynes (+31), Tobias Harris (19 points, 8 rebounds, +24) and Stanley Johnson (+36).
The Pistons immediately went on a run to answer the Pels and we had a tight one entering the 4th.
So, what happened?
Everything went bad.
The offense was a struggle over the remaining 12 minutes of the game for Nola, with the ball failing to move like it did in the 1st quarter. Meanwhile, Detroit kept their offense rolling with Smith at the helm, Baynes finishing around the hoop, and Reggie Jackson on the bench, New Orleans had nothing going other than iso-Jrue (4 of 6 in the 4th; 22 points, 11 assists total) and a schoolyard Tyreke Evans and-1. He had two of them tonight actually, nearly identical, on Aron Baynes and, despite them being positive in the box score, it left the viewer thinking Tyreke is a little too creaky. He’s got almost no lift and essentially threw up lucky prayers that were answered.
At least he made those shots, though: Solo, Terrence Jones and Buddy Hield went o-fer in the 4th and nobody made a 3 while Detroit’s bench ran away with an uncontested win. Kind of a sad ending to a decent effort, much like this post-game recap!
The Pelicans next play in Washington D.C. against the Wizards on Saturday at 6 p.m.