While the Detroit Pistons are banking on a flurry of trade-deadline moves leading to a playoff berth, the New Orleans Pelicans hope the ones they didn't make can help them get there.
After earning a much-needed win in their return from the All-Star break, the Pelicans attempt to continue their recent success against the slumping Pistons on Sunday.
The teams took far different approaches to Thursday's trade deadline, with Detroit among the most aggressive clubs and New Orleans largely standing pat in hopes of maintaining its improved play over the past month.
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The Pelicans' decision to hold on to Ryan Anderson paid off in their first game back from the break, as the impending unrestricted free agent scored 26 points to complement big efforts from Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday in Friday's 121-114 win over Philadelphia.
"At this point for us we want to win," Anderson said. "We want wins and we want to build a winning stretch of games, and a winning culture. We think of this as a new season and a new start so this is a good way to start this second half of the season."
Despite going 10-7 since Jan. 13 and winning three of four, New Orleans (21-33) faces an uphill climb to garner a second straight playoff appearance. The Pelicans sit 12th in the Western Conference, six games behind Houston and Utah for eighth place.
Detroit (27-28) looms just 1 1-2 back of Charlotte and Chicago for the final two spots in the East, prompting coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy to make two major moves. He acquired forward Tobias Harris from Orlando for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova, then traded a protected first-round pick to Houston for forward Donatas Motiejunas and veteran guard Marcus Thornton.
"You're going to have to take some risk in order to get better," Van Gundy said. "There are no deals where there's no risk and we feel like this was a risk we could handle."
Harris had a team-high 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting in an impressive debut, though it wasn't enough to prevent the Pistons from a season high-tying fourth straight loss in Friday's 98-86 defeat at Washington.
Thornton, who averaged 10.0 points in 18.8 minutes per game with the Rockets, is expected to debut Sunday and Motiejunas is nearing a return from a back injury that's sidelined him since Dec. 31. Both will be counted on to boost one of the league's least productive benches at 26.7 points per game.
Though Detroit is struggling offensively, averaging 89.0 points over the last three games, its defense may hold the key to ending a seven-game series losing streak. The Pelicans have won five straight and 10 of 11 when scoring 100 points or more but are 0-25 when held under that number.
The Pistons provided little resistance in a 115-99 loss at New Orleans on Jan. 21, with the Pelicans amassing 60 points in the paint and recording their second-highest field goal rate this season at 53.5 percent.
Davis had 32 points that day, and the All-Star is averaging 27.7 over a seven-game stretch after scoring 34 against Philadelphia. Holiday added 24 points and 12 assists Friday, and he's averaging 23.8 and 9.0 over his last four.
The Pelicans have won three straight in Detroit and haven't lost to the Pistons since Feb. 4, 2012.