Mon, 30 Jan 2023

Pistons face big challenge at surging Pelicans

Field Level Media
07 Dec 2022, 17:55 GMT+10

No team in the NBA is hotter than the New Orleans Pelicans.

At 8-2, they are tied with the Boston Celtics for the best record over the last 10 games -- even though the Pelicans have played without multiple starters for most of that time.

They will be without second-leading scorer Brandon Ingram (toe) for a fifth consecutive game and fellow starter Herbert Jones Jr. (ankle) will be doubtful when they host the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.

CJ McCollum returned to the lineup from the health and safety protocols right after Jones was injured.

"We have a lot of depth," said forward Zion Williamson, who has led the Pelicans' surge to second place in the Western Conference standings. "I say it a lot, and I don't just say it because they are my teammates; I say it because I mean it. This is a special team."

Williamson cited the fact that backup center Willy Hernangomez was the MVP in the Euro League but is averaging just 9.9 minutes with New Orleans.

"He understands the name of the game and that we have a deep team," Williamson said. "Whenever his number is called, he steps up."

Another prime example of the team's depth is guard Jose Alvarado, who joined the team as a rookie undrafted free agent before last season and has become a key contributor off the bench. He scored a career-high 38 points and made a career-high eight 3-pointers in a 121-106 win over visiting Denver on Sunday.

Alvarado has been taking advantage of scoring opportunities that arise because of the attention defenses have to pay to Williamson, who is averaging 23.6 points after missing all of last season because of foot surgery.

The Pistons began a three-game trip with a 116-96 victory at Miami on Tuesday night. It was their second victory in six games.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 of his 31 points in the second half as the Pistons pulled away to their largest margin of victory this season. Their 14-point victory against Golden State on Oct. 30 was their only other victory by more than seven points.

"Second half, we wanted to play faster and move the ball a little bit," Bogdanovic said. "I hit a couple 3s and everything opened up."

Alec Burks added 18 points (12 in the second half), Saddiq Bey scored 14, Isaiah Stewart had 11 points and 11 rebounds, Cory Joseph scored 11 and Jaden Ivey 10.

"It's a huge team win," Bogdanovic said. "We held a great offensive team under 100 points."

Detroit, which entered the game allowing the second-most points in the league (118.2), improved to 4-3 when holding its opponent to 109 or fewer points. The Pistons are 3-16 when they allow 110 or more.

That statistic will be put to the test against the Pelicans, who have scored at least 110 points in eight of their last 10 games.

Cade Cunningham, the Pistons' second-leading scorer, has missed the last 14 games because of a shin injury.

--Field Level Media

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