One night after Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said his team was "absolutely destroyed" in a 36-point road loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the undermanned Pistons put together one of their best efforts of the season.
The Pistons defeated the Houston Rockets 108-101 at home on Saturday night behind Tobias Harris' 27 points.
When the Pistons (21-17) face the New Orleans Pelicans (19-19) Monday night at the Smoothie King Center (7 p.m., News Talk 99.5 WRNO in the New Orleans area), it will be a study in contrasts.
The Pelicans have been consistently average this season, alternating between wins and losses and never putting together a sizable winning streak.
After a 116-98 road loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night -- a game in which the Pelicans trailed by as many as 34 points -- New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry seemed just as perplexed as Van Gundy was a few days ago.
"We weren't ready to play, and that's my fault," Gentry said. "I've got to get everybody ready to play, but they beat us in all phases of the game. They were quicker, they were better defensively, they were into the ball, they got the 50/50 balls -- so they beat us in all phases of the game."
The Pelicans are playing .500 ball despite having two of the best big men in the NBA: Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins has been maddening in his style of play. He was a statistical force against the Timberwolves -- scoring a team-high 23 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and had five assists -- but he committed seven turnovers, adding to his league-leading total in that area.
The Timberwolves had only five turnovers in the first three quarters.
The Pistons put up a tremendous effort against the Rockets despite the absence of center Andre Drummond (rib contusion), guard Reggie Jackson (ankle) and forward Stanley Johnson (hip flexor). The victory over the Rockets snapped Detroit's two-game losing streak, and it was accomplished by balanced scoring. Detroit placed six players scoring in double figures.
The Pistons easily swept the Pelicans last year, winning 118-98 in Detroit and 109-86 in New Orleans. Until those two victories, the Pistons had lost eight straight to New Orleans, including a career-high 59-point, 20-rebound effort by Davis on Feb. 21, 2016.
In two games against Detroit last season, Davis averaged 32.0 points on 58.5 percent shooting, 13.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 blocks. Jrue Holiday averaged 22.0 points on 57.1 percent shooting, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 1.5 steals.
In two games against New Orleans last season, Harris averaged 17.0 points on 65.2 percent shooting, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Drummond averaged 15.0 points on 53.8 percent shooting, 11.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals.
The Pelicans will have to avoid another slow start against the Pistons. In the loss to Minnesota, the Pelicans fell behind for the sixth time this season by at least 15 points in the first half.
The Pelicans briefly led the NBA in 3-point percentage after making 17 3-pointers in an easy win over the Brooklyn Nets. But since Dec. 27, they have made just 34 of 116 from long range (29.3 percent). They missed 13 of their first 14 3-pointers on Saturday night.
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