It’s an all too familiar story for Detroit Pistons fans. A well-regarded coach is brought in to take a young, unmolded team and unlock its full potential and get them into the playoffs. There are some ups, plenty of downs, and ultimately the two sides divorce.
Stan Van Gundy’s story didn’t end well in Detroit, and while the rest of his tale is yet to be written in New Orleans, it’s getting off to a rocky start. Now Van Gundy and the Pistons are reunited on Valentine’s Day. The Pelicans looking to crawl back toward .500 and the Pistons looking for its first winning streak of the season.
When: 7 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +4.5
The Pistons will have their hands full assuming Detroit is once again without the services of Mason Plumlee and Sekou Doumbouya to go along with the long-term absence of Jahlil Okafor. That leaves rookie Isaiah Stewart to gather another pelt against Steven Adams. Adams, however, is the first opponent I fear could eat Stewart alive because that is one tough SOB.
The Pelicans’ other big man, Zion Williamson, is even more of a threat. Williamson isn’t getting headlines like he did his rookie year, but the dude is good. He’s averaging 24 points per game and shooting 61% from the floor and getting to the free-throw line nearly eight times per game.
Williamson combined with Brandon Ingram creates an intriguing amount of young firepower, but New Orleans’ biggest issue is its veterans not putting them over the top and just all around bad defense. The aforementioned Adams only has so much left in the tank and Eric Bledsoe and JJ Redick just aren’t bringing it in the back court.
A key defensive deficiency in New Orleans is a dreadful inability to guard the 3-point line. New Orleans ranks last i the NBA in 3-point attempts allowed and set an NBA-record, and not a good one, by allowing opponents to hit 25 3-pointers in each of the past two games.
“Our defense is ridiculous. We tried everything (Friday),” Van Gundy told reporters Saturday. “I don’t know. It’s on us as coaches to figure out the best scheme. It’s on our players to play a lot harder and get to closeouts. To have two games in a row like this is inexcusable. For me as a coach and for the players, it’s inexcusable.”
That’s good for a player like Saddiq Bey, who set an NBA record of his own as the first rookie to ever go perfect from the 3-point line with at least 7 makes. Bey is coming off of a career game against the Boston Celtics with 30 points and 12 rebounds in the victory.
Let’s see what he can do for an encore to make the fan base fall even further in love with him on Valentine’s Day.
Delon Wright, Wayne Ellington, Jerami Grant, Blake Griffin, Isaiah Stewart
New Orleans Pelicans (11-14)
Eric Bledsoe, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Steven Adams
Question of the Game
What would a great Detroit Pistons themed Valentine’s card say?