Despite subpar records, NOLA wary of Pistons, Pacers

Thursday, January 14, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

While the city of New Orleans braces for the most significant pro football game played in the Big Easy in at least three years, the Hornets traveled to Michigan this afternoon, continuing preparations for a two-game weekend road trip. Winners of seven of the last eight games, New Orleans (20-17) is scheduled to visit a pair of Eastern Conference foes who are below .500, the Detroit Pistons (12-25) and Indiana Pacers (13-25, prior to their Friday game at New Jersey).

The Friday and Saturday games mark the conclusion of a six-game stretch for the Hornets in which every opponent has sported a losing record. New Orleans has gone 3-1 thus far. Detroit and Indiana are both going through bleak times – the Pistons ended a 13-game losing streak Tuesday at Washington, while the Pacers are just 4-11 since mid-December (though Indiana has won two straight, with encouraging home wins over Toronto and Phoenix).

Though both hosts appear vulnerable on paper, Jeff Bower stressed that the Hornets never dwell on the records of the opposition.

“Every team in this league is capable of winning,” Bower said. “We really don’t even address what the records of our upcoming opponents are. We just talk about what we need to do to beat them. We understand that they are all professionals and capable of big nights, and we know that many times, records can be deceiving.”

It’s almost impossible to fathom how the Pistons could lose 13 games in a row, given some of the familiar and accomplished names on their roster, but injuries have had a devastating impact. Longtime Pistons Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince have combined to appear in only 20 games this season. Prince (knee) and explosive shooting guard, Ben Gordon (groin), missed the win over the Wizards and were listed as questionable for Friday’s game.

“Detroit is a team that has struggled, but is very talented,” said Bower, whose club posted a 95-87 win over the Pistons last month, in a game that was tied with 2:00 remaining. “We were able to beat them at home, so we expect it to be a more difficult challenge on the road.”

Meanwhile, Indiana has also had more than its share of health issues. All-Star forward and New Orleans native Danny Granger (heel) has missed 17 games this season, but the Pacers are 2-2 and much more competitive since he returned to action a week ago.

“What a difference he makes,” Bower assessed of Indiana’s leading scorer at 24.5 points per game. “Obviously his absence has really made things difficult for the Pacers and is a big part of why their record is what it is. But since he’s been back he’s really provided the scoring and leadership that changes their team drastically. We’re very much aware of his impact.”