Despite being mathematically out of the playoff picture and having a lot to gain by improving percentage points in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, the Pistons players don't see it that way. They don't find there is any winning in losing and they made that pretty clear Tuesday night against the Cavs when they led by 50 after the three quarters and won by 39 [via The Detroit News]:
"We don't play like that," forward Jason Maxiell said. "This is a good team and we showed it (Tuesday night)."
As die-hard fans of the team, we want what's best for it long term. There's been plenty of debates here on whether or not tanking is a fruitful strategy, but one thing I can always get behind after suffering through the 2010-2011 season is rooting for a group of players who don't give up (and show up to practice):
"It means a lot that we finish strong," Greg Monroe said. "We are not packing it in right now. We want to win these last games. We are still focused and we are doing everything to get better as a team and continue to build momentum for next year."
Momentum may or may not exist. I do believe it's important for a group of relatively young players to understand what it's like to win more games than they lose, and they're experiencing that since starting 4-20. If they think it helps their confidence and builds for next year, then who are we to say it's not.
Where was this 19-18 team in the first 24 games, though? Playing tougher opponents, sure, but also not familiar with a new coach due to the lockout and perhaps still trying to cleanse themselves of last year's enduring stink. And unlike last year's team that won four out of its last five games to end the season, this year's team and head coach will be back after a full unlocked offseason. Maybe, just maybe, this team -- with the help of another Top 10 pick -- will be ready to compete for the playoffs sooner than we thought. Next year at this time, we could be talking playoffs and after the last few years, I'm ready for that, even if it means a less than spectacular first round exit.