The Pelican Blog

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Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 103, Pistons 101

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – How wild was Friday’s second half between New Orleans and Detroit? During a roller-coaster final 24 minutes of basketball, the Pelicans built a 10-point lead, only to find themselves trailing by 16 points later in the same third quarter. New Orleans then dug all the way out of that 16-point hole to put itself in prime position to win in the fourth quarter, only to see Detroit convert an unconventional three-point possession that forced a tie. Facing the potential of overtime, the Pelicans again answered, scoring the game-deciding basket with 1.9 seconds left.

On a night of drastic momentum changes and distinct highs and lows for both teams, it seemed fitting that a player who had one of his poorest games of 2013-14 also was a hero. After committing seven turnovers earlier in the game, Pelicans shooting guard Eric Gordon had the ball in his hands with the outcome at stake. Gordon dribbled toward the basket and spun around Pistons defender Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, dropping in a game-winning shot. Detroit quickly inbounded from the baseline to Brandon Jennings, but his 60-foot heave caromed off the backboard, sealing a come-from-behind victory for New Orleans (17-25).

Gordon’s seven-turnover game was the most by an individual on a New Orleans club that set its season high Friday with 21 turnovers. Still, the Pelicans used a 30-18 fourth-quarter advantage to rally and overtake Detroit (17-26). After sitting out each game since Jan. 15 due to a combination of DNPs by coach’s decision and illness, Anthony Morrow was immense for New Orleans down the stretch, scoring 13 of his 21 points in the final period. The elite three-point shooter drained three consecutive treys for the Pelicans during their 30-point fourth quarter.

“Morrow was really big for us hitting shots,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said. “For Eric, he played one of his worst games, but in the end, he was able to scoop that shot up and make a layup at the end. It was a big win for us. It was a tough game. It could’ve gone either way. We’re just thankful it went our way tonight.”

After an incredible 30-4 run, Detroit threatened to put the game away by building a 78-62 lead late in the third quarter, but New Orleans regained its footing from there. The Pelicans still trailed by 10 points midway through the final period, but Morrow began draining jumpers during a 14-5 run. Anthony Davis gave the Pelicans a long-awaited lead with a tip-in score to make it 99-98 with 59 seconds to go. After two Morrow free throws with 30 seconds remaining, Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey drew a foul but split the free throws. His miss was batted around before the Pistons secured the rebound, eventually tying it at 101 when Josh Smith made a layup with 19 seconds on the clock.

The Pelicans drew up a play for Gordon to isolate from the top of the key and let time tick down in order to give the Pistons as little time as possible to answer. Gordon (15 points, 5-for-10 shooting) had struggled to protect the ball against pesky Detroit guards, but was given a vote of confidence in the clutch partly based on his past success in a New Orleans uniform. For example, not long after making his 2012-13 season debut in late December, Gordon authored a game-winning three-point play at Dallas.

“Eric has been in that situation for us before, and come through,” Williams said. “The biggest thing is you want to get the last shot. We told him to (penetrate) around five (seconds left).”

New Orleans responded with a victory after an unsightly home defeat Tuesday to Sacramento, as well as a frustrating third quarter Friday in which Detroit went on one of the biggest runs by a Pelicans opponent all season. The Pelicans and Pistons combined to commit 39 turnovers.

“It was an ugly game, for sure,” Gordon said. “It was good that we came back to win. It was good experience to get a win with a young group. We’ve just got to build off this.”

“Obviously, we’re short-handed right now,” said Morrow, referring to New Orleans only having 10 available players, with four of its top six scorers sidelined. “We’re not making any excuses. We showed a lot of character tonight. Guys fought through it and guys stepped up."