New Orleans — For the second time in a week, the Pistons had a solid chance against a struggling team with a losing record. In each game, they had a double-digit lead, only to see it evaporate.
The result was another bad performance to another sub-.500 team, as the New Orleans Pelicans rallied in the second quarter and dominated in the second half on the way to a 109-93 victory on Friday night at Smoothie King Center.
Trey Lyles had 18 points — one off his season high — and five rebounds, Cade Cunningham added 16 points and four assists and Hamidou Diallo 11 points and seven rebounds for the Pistons (4-21) who lost their 11th straight game.
“Collapse. We totally gave in to adversity,” coach Dwane Casey said. “You know the (other) team is going to come out and make a run, but it started in the middle part of the second quarter. We had a good lead and we didn’t keep our foot on the pedal.
“They started making a run right there before the half, and we didn’t respond in the proper way.”
The Pistons had a hot start to the game, opening 6-of-9 on 3-pointers and racing to a 26-17 lead in the first seven minutes. Jerami Grant, Cunningham and Saddiq Bey each hit a 3-pointer, fueling a 13-2 run. The Pelicans (8-20) answered with a 3-pointer from Brandon Ingram (26 points) and two free throws from Josh Hart (14 points, 13 rebounds and five assists).
Bey hit back-to-back 3-pointers on the Pistons’ next two possessions and Lyles hit another 3-pointer for the nine-point lead at the 5:12 mark.
Lyles started the second quarter with seven consecutive points, on a drive, a 3-pointer, and a tip-in, and the Pistons led, 39-25. Jonas Valanciunas (17 points and 11 rebounds) split a pair of free throws and Cory Joseph answered with a jumper.
After a lay-in by Hart, the Pistons matched their largest lead of the game, 43-28, at the 8:32 mark on a highlight-reel dunk by Diallo.
The Pelicans started chipping away, with Ingram scoring 11 points — including a four-point play that closed the lead to one — and Valanciunas eight points through the final six minutes of the half. They accounted for 19 of the final New Orleans points of the quarter, as they took a 54-53 lead on two free throws by Ingram with 1:10 remaining.
Isaiah Stewart’s basket with 51.1 seconds left gave the Pistons the lead, 55-54, at halftime.
That’s where things completely turned.
The Pelicans started the third quarter with a 10-0 run, with a basket by Valanciunas, a 3-pointer by Devonte Graham and a lay-in and 3-pointer by Herbert Jones (10 points). Cunningham ended the spurt with a 3-pointer, but the Pelicans added on nine more points, pushing the lead to 73-58 at the 4:48 mark.
The Pistons started 1-of-14 from the field in the second half, and they finally got another shot to fall with Frank Jackson’s 3-pointer with 4:26 left. The hole had gotten too big, and the lead at the end of the quarter was 83-67, after the Pistons shot 5-of-24 from the field and just 2-of-9 on 3-pointers.
The slow start in the second half was a carbon copy of the two losses this week to the Wizards and Thunder, and the sluggish starts are have continued to hurt their chances.
“Coming out in the third quarter, it compounded the situation, and that’s what we just talked about, whether it’s a change in the lineup after halftime or whatever it is, we can’t continue to come out after halftime not ready to compete,” Casey said. “It’s a lot of little breakdowns we had defensively, things we didn’t do offensively. I think we missed six lay-ups, so that’s a combination of things.
“We’ve got to look at it, coming out of the third quarter how we’re going to approach it. Young team, old team, it doesn’t matter. The proper approach coming out in the third quarter because we’re putting together some good stretches. For a quarter and a half tonight, we played good basketball, and they made a muscle and we didn’t respond.”