By Dave Hogg, Associated Press
AUBURN HILLS (AP) – Stan Van Gundy has spent the last six weeks searching for a group among his Detroit Pistons that could shut down opposing offenses at the end of games.
The coach might have found one Wednesday night.
Led by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and four reserves, the Pistons overcame an eight-point third-quarter deficit and beat the New Orleans Hornets 118-98.
In the final 17 minutes of the game, Detroit outscored the Pelicans 52-24.
“That group turned the game around,” Van Gundy said. “Our bench played well against their bench in the first half, but they did it in the second half against the New Orleans starters. That was impressive.”
Caldwell-Pope has always been Detroit’s top perimeter defender, but he dominated the game on both ends Wednesday night. He scored 38 points, easily surpassing his previous career best of 31, and only fell short of a 40-point game by missing two free throws with 1:01 to play.
“Once I got past my career high, I was going for 40,” he said. “I was having a lot of fun out there, and my teammates did a great job of giving me the ball.”
Caldwell-Pope made a career-high eight 3-pointers on 11 attempts.
“When he’s doing that, all we do is feed him the ball,” said Ish Smith, who replaced Reggie Jackson at point guard for Detroit’s winning surge. “It’s not complicated.”
Clippers coach Alvin Gentry, always willing to compliment an opposing player, said he wasn’t surprised by Caldwell-Pope’s scoring.
“They’ve got a guy who is one of the most explosive players in the NBA, and he went off on us,” he said.
Tobias Harris added 19 points and Andre Drummond 17 for the Pistons, who ended an eight-game losing streak to New Orleans. Detroit had lost three in a row overall.
“It has always been about getting stops for us,” Aron Baynes said. “It has been like that all year, and that’s what we were doing tonight.”
Anthony Davis, who scored a career-high 59 points last February at Detroit, had 31 points and 12 rebounds, while Jrue Holliday added 22 points and 11 assists.
The Pelicans shot 50 percent from the floor, but their 15 turnovers led to 26 Detroit points.
“When they get 26 points on 15 turnovers, that means they are scoring almost every time we turn it over,” Gentry said. “That’s a great defensive team, but those weren’t forced turnovers. We were making mistakes and giving them easy baskets.”
The first quarter started the scoring duel between Davis and Caldwell-Pope.
Caldwell-Pope had 17 points to Davis’ 16 as the Pistons built a 34-30 lead.
Davis kept going in the second quarter, but his 23 points in the half weren’t enough to keep the Pistons from taking a 60-54 lead. Detroit shot 57.8 percent, while the Pelicans were at 57.9 percent, but made five 3-pointers to one for New Orleans.
The Pelicans regained the lead midway through the third period, using a 12-0 run to go up 74-66. Solomon Hill provided the final six points with back-to-back 3-pointers.
That’s when Van Gundy went with Caldwell-Pope, Baynes, Smith, Tobias Harris and Stanley Johnson.
“Our first group was just walking around,” he said. “I called one timeout and nothing changed, so it was time to try something else.”
Detroit’s reserves got the Pistons back into the game, and Caldwell-Pope’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave them an 83-81 lead at the end of the quarter.
Van Gundy stayed with his backups at the start of the fourth, only keeping one starter on the floor, and the Pistons built a 98-87 lead with 7:32 to play.
“We had some bad possessions and we didn’t hit shots,” Dante Cunningham said. “Everything we did wrong, they capitalized.”
Pelicans: Davis’ 59-point game last February also set The Palace single-game scoring record – a mark likely to survive the last months of the arena’s history. He has scored at least 30 points in his last three games against Detroit.
Pistons: Caldwell-Pope’s 17 first-quarter points were the most in a quarter by a Pistons player this season. … Detroit’s last win over New Orleans came on Feb. 4, 2012. No one in Wednesday’s game played in that one.
© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.