The Pelicans have had a rough go of things lately and that’s putting it kindly.
New Orleans are losers of three of their previous four games, having surrendered at least 105 points in each of those defeats. Defense usually goes hand in hand with effort and it has been virtually absent from the Pelicans, especially Saturday night in Minnesota. If the Pelicans’ New Years resolution for 2018 has been to not care on defense, then I say bravo and they’re off to a glorious start. If that’s not the case, then I’m downright alarmed by what I’ve seen.
With a chance to put the Minnesota game behind them, New Orleans welcomes the Detroit Pistons to the Smoothie King Center.
The Pistons are 21-17, locked in a three-way tie with Milwaukee and Miami for fifth place in the East, and are only two games behind Washington in the win column for fourth and possibly having homecourt in the first round come playoff time.
The Pistons have rebounded nicely from an early December disaster that featured a seven-game losing streak. Since that skid, the Pistons have won seven of their last 11 games, highlighted by wins over the Spurs and Rockets.
Detroit has certainly been playing better basketball as of late, but the roster is down a few key contributing pieces. Andre Drummond missed the Houston game Saturday night with a rib contusion and his status for Monday’s game is unknown. Stanley Johnson is also a tossup, having missed the past three games with a strained hip. Don’t bet on Reggie Jackson or Jon Leuer participating Monday night: Jackson has been out since around Christmas with an ankle sprain that’s expected to keep him sidelined six to eight weeks; Leuer also suffered an ankle sprain early in November and has yet to play since.
If Drummond does indeed miss Monday’s game against New Orleans, I’m looking for the Pelicans to exploit their advantage in the rebounding. Truth be told, the Pelicans are not a noticeably better rebounding team than Detroit, but take away Drummond and his 15 rebounds a game, and New Orleans can hopefully see a discrepancy in second chance opportunities.
Another area New Orleans had better be ready for is defending the three point shot. The Pistons don’t attempt many threes a game, 28, but they’re currently sitting fourth in three point percentage. They don’t put up a big number of threes but when they do, they don’t miss. In fact, since this winning seven of 11 stretch began, nobody has shot the three ball better than the Pistons.
Detroit isn’t scoring a lot over their last 11 games, ranking 29th in points scored, but they’ve more than compensated by allowing the third fewest points per game over that same span, trailing only Boston and San Antonio.
Monday night in the Smoothie King Center presents a classic contrast in styles: the Pelicans hot offense and leaky defense clashes with Detroit’s low scoring, but brick wall of a defensive group. One of the great philosophical debates throughout history is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object; for the Pelicans’ sake, let’s hope they can make the immovable object budge enough to notch the victory.
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Detroit Pistons
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: January 8, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM