The New Orleans Pelicans and the Detroit Pistons have both been through rough times lately. Each team has began 2014 in a deep slump and both have fallen out of the top eight in their respective conferences. Friday night, however, they faced each other and someone had to win. It wasn’t pretty, but the Pelicans managed to get the job done, defeating the Pistons 103-101. The deciding play for New Orleans was a shot by Eric Gordon with less than two seconds on the clock.
A key error was made by Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks, who failed to call timeout after Gordon’s shot put the Pelicans on top. A timeout would have given the Pistons a decent amount of time to set of a potential game-tying or game-winning shot, but instead, the clock simply ran out, giving the struggling Pistons yet another loss. For the Pelicans, it marked their second win in the last three games, giving them a rare glimpse of hope after their struggles with injury problems in recent weeks.
The key to the Pelicans victory was the excellent play of their bench, specifically Anthony Morrow and Austin Rivers, who combined for 36 points. Morrow has always been an elite 3-point shooter and he was certainly on his game Friday night, as he hit four of five shots from beyond the arc, while going of 7-for-11 overall. Morrow also finished the game with a plus/minus rating of +24, which was 15 better than any other Pelicans player. As for Rivers, his shooting percentage was less impressive, as he went just 6-for-15, but still, considering all the problems Rivers has had in his first season and a half in the NBA, seeing him have such a productive night is certainly encouraging.
As for the starting lineup, Brian Roberts did a fine job starting in place of the injured Jrue Holiday, scoring 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field. Roberts finished with a mere two assists (no Pelicans player had more than three for the game), but his highly efficient shooting was more than enough to make up for the lack of distribution.
For the Pistons, Andre Drummond led the way, having an excellent night of 21 points and 20 rebounds. Drummond has established himself as the Pistons best player this team, but he hasn’t always gotten the best support from his teammates. Friday night, however, the rest of the Pistons cast had a pretty solid night as well. Brandon Jennings shot just 7-for-20, but his ability to get to the free throw line (he was 12-of-14 from the line) made up for that, as he finished with 28 points. The Pistons put in a decent effort, but the Pelicans simply outlasted them. Who knows what would have happened if Cheeks had just called that crucial timeout.
This was an important win for the Pelicans, who are trying to keep their season from devolving into a complete freefall. Their odds of making the playoffs are extremely low after all of their injuries, but with wins over the Pistons and Grizzlies in the past week, the Pelicans have served notice that if nothing else, they’ll be going out with some dignity.