The Pistons looked good in a playoff-style game with the Bulls last night, but the odds they advance in the playoffs just took a big hit.
With a 91-88 loss to Chicago, Detroit will have the eighth seed and a first-round matchup with Cleveland.
Yeah, the Cleveland that beat the Pistons 3-1 in the season series and outscored Detroit by 7.5 points per game. Those are the Cavaliers who have homecourt advantage and a 39-1 record at Quicken Loans Arena, too. Stretching the series to six games should probably be considered a success.
And it’s a shame that’s Detroit’s fate.
In their biggest game of the season, the Pistons played the best they have in a while.
Detroit and Chicago were evenly matched. They fought from start to finish, dove all over the court, played physical — and most importantly, played well.
The game looked like a four-five matchup in the first round.
The Bulls are playing their best basketball of the season. They’ve won five in a row, nine of 11 and 12 of 15.
And the Pistons are still 8-5 when Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace both play and Allen Iverson doesn’t. That clip would give the Pistons 50 wins over the course of a full season and put them comfortably in fourth place in the East.
To make matters more impressive, eight of those games were against playoff teams (including two wins over Orlando and one over Boston). And most of those games were on the road.
So, as the Pistons and Bulls battled last night, it looked like either could advance to the second round as long they stayed out of the eight spot — especially Detroit, which led by 11 in the second half. Matt McHale of Bulls By The Horns had this to say at halftime:
‘I bet when the Pistons turn the screws in the second half, Chicago will wilt.”
The Bulls ended the game on an 8-1 run. The Pistons didn’t score in the final 2:42, and they didn’t make a basket in the final 4:19.
In the final three minutes, Detroit made bonehead play after bonehead play:
- Richard Hamilton threw a bullet pass near nobody out of bounds (Rasheed Wallace may have been in the wrong spot).
- Wallace weakly fouled Rose on a layup that went for an and-one.
- Rodney Stuckey forced a jumper in an attempt to get a two-for-one that Derrick Rose blocked.
- After getting an offensive rebound, Antonio McDyess took a desperate jumper thinking time was about to expire when five seconds were left.
And somehow, I was encouraged by the Pistons’ play.
This was a flat-out fun game. Detroit had life. I wanted to watch six more games of the matchups:
- Stuckey and Rose looking to prove themselves as the young point guard more suited to lead their team for the next decade.
- Hamilton and Ben Gordon trying to match each other point for point.
- Wallace and McDyess attempting to prove their veteran savvy is more meaningful than Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah’s athleticism.
- Kwame Brown, a former No. 1 draft pick, and Brad Miller, who was undrafted, battling to be the best role player on the court.
Detroit-Chicago would be a great playoff series. For my money, these are the fourth- and fifth-best teams in the East right now.
And the way the Pistons are playing, Boston-Detroit or Orlando-Detroit would have been pretty entertaining, too.
The Pistons aren’t perfect, but they’re peaking.
Stuckey is hitting his jumpers and not turning the ball over (16 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and one turnover last night).
Hamilton is scoring efficiently again (25 points on 19 shots)
Wallace and McDyess have their legs underneath them (18 points, 19 rebounds, four blocks and no turnovers combined).
It’s too bad Detroit has to face Cleveland, ranked first in John Hollinger’s power rankings.
Everything is just starting to click.