Pelicans vs. Pistons Odds & Picks: Back New Orleans as Road Underdogs
Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Zion Williamson.
- Having lost two straight games, the Pelicans look to get on track on Sunday in Detroit.
- The Pelicans have a clear advantage over the Pistons thanks to the efficient offense of Zion Williamson, who is having an excellent sophomore season.
- Roberto Arguello breaks down why he's backing New Orleans to cover as road underdogs.
Pelicans vs. Pistons Odds
|Moneyline||-176 / +148|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
|Odds as of Saturday at 11 p.m. ET and via FanDuel.|
The Pelicans face the Pistons in Detroit Sunday night in the first meeting of the season between these teams.
New Orleans has lost two straight road games, but Zion Williamson led it to a four-game winning streak before those defeats to Chicago and Dallas.
The Pistons upset the Celtics on Friday behind a career-high 30 points from rookie Saddiq Bey. Detroit remains a mystery with the third-worst record in the NBA, but all seven of its wins have come against playoff-caliber teams.
Can the Pistons finally beat a team that isn’t expected to be a contender on Sunday?
New Orleans Pelicans
If the Pelicans hope to win and cover as road favorites, they will need Williamson to continue elevating his game and to step up their defense.
After scoring 20 or more points in 19 of his 24 games as a rookie, Williamson has established himself as one of the NBA’s most efficient scorers in his sophomore season. He is 15th in the NBA in scoring average at 24.3 points per game, and he ranks in the 86th percentile among bigs with 131.0 points per 100 shot attempts, according to Cleaning The Glass. Per Synergy, Williamson is shooting 60% in one-on-one situations this season, which is the best mark in the NBA.
Many doubted how the Pelicans would be able to operate without adequate spacing offensively with Williamson and center Steven Adams sharing the court, but Williamson has operated more on the perimeter than expected. He has been used more frequently as a ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations recently, thriving when he’s able to match up with smaller defenders.
Williamson has shown that he can make quality decisions when teams double him, but he is dominant when teams don’t help and he’s able to get near the basket. Williamson is coming off of a career-high 36 points on 14-of-15 shooting in the Pelicans’ loss to the Mavericks.
While Williamson had a career night on Friday, the Pelicans lost because they allowed 143 points. New Orleans seventh in non-garbage-time offensive rating (114.6), according to Cleaning The Glass, but it’s 28th in non-garbage-time defensive rating (116.6). The Pelicans have elevated their offense over the last two weeks with an offensive rating of 121.8, but they have also been worse on defense with a 120.7 defensive rating over that span.
If the Pistons hope to cover or pull the upset, they will need Jerami Grant to continue scoring efficiently and guards Delon Wright and Wayne Ellington to step up. Killian Hayes (hip), Jahlil Okafor (knee) and Sekou Doumbouya (concussion) remain out while Mason Plumlee (elbow) is questionable.
The Pistons have gotten consistently good to great play from Grant, who is in contention for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.
While the Pistons’ highest-paid player (Blake Griffin) has been disappointing this season, their second-highest paid player (Grant) has thrived in his new home. Grant is averaging career-highs with 23.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 38.2% from 3-point land in his first season as a primary scoring option.
Grant will need to bounce back on Sunday, though, after scoring a combined 24 points in his last two games.
Jerami Grant career 30-point games
First 458 games: 0
Last 20 games: 5 pic.twitter.com/rzKVDd5aFL
— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 10, 2021
Delon Wright hasn’t been efficient this season, but the Pistons have been at their best when he scores. He has scored 20 or more points just four times this season, but all three times have come since Jan. 25. In those three games, the Pistons beat the 76ers by 15, lost to the Lakers in double overtime, beat the Nets by 11 and beat the Celtics by six. Wright takes on a more important scoring role with Derrick Rose getting traded to the Knicks, having taken a season-high 16 shot attempts on Tuesday.
Wayne Ellington and Josh Jackson will also play key roles for the Pistons. Ellington has been one of the NBA’s elite snipers this season, making 44.5% of his 3-pointers, but he is looking to bounce back after missing all seven of his 3-balls on Friday.
Jackson has been a streaky player for the Pistons, but he has played better of late, scoring between 11 and 22 points in each of the last seven games. Bey exploded for 30 points on Friday on 10-of-12 shooting, including his seven 3-pointers, and he along with fellow rookie Isaiah Stewart will need to step up again if Plumlee is out.
Take the Pelicans to win and cover because of their advantage inside. The Pistons’ defense allows the second-highest percentage of opponent shot attempts at the rim (37.1%). The Pelicans’ offense, which takes the third-most shot attempts at the rim (39.9%) in the NBA, should be able to take advantage of that weakness with Adams and Williamson inside, especially if Plumlee remains out.
The recipe for Pistons wins so far this season is to play with high energy against winning teams who come out flat against them. With the Pelicans having lost two in a row (the latest of which being an embarrassing defensive performance on national television), this doesn’t feel like that kind of scenario.
The Pistons have also won mostly in low-scoring games as their offense (23rd in offensive efficiency) isn’t suited to outscore opponents. The Pelicans have scored at least 109 points in 12 straight games, and I expect them to come out strong and outscore the Pistons on Sunday.
Pick: Pelicans -4 (up to -6)