Ever since Kyrie Irving went down, possibly for the year, with a biceps injury, the Detroit Pistons lottery position has been precarious. On one hand, the Cavs have someone reasonable backups at point guard, but on the other hand, a bad team losing its best player is never really a recipe for sustained winning.
And if the Cavs stop winning that means another team is going to have to step up, and the most likely candidate has been the Sacramento Kings. Unfortunately, the Kings haven't seem very inclined to help Detroit out. Despite being back for more than a month, Rudy Gay hasn't powered the Kings to the realms of respectability.
Losers of five of six going into last night's contest against the Washington Wizards, I was hopeful but figured I was fooling myself. Lo and behold, the Kings managed to pull out a surprise victory
117-11 117-111 in overtime. And the Kings had to come back to do it after falling behind by eight with five minutes left and down five with just 24 seconds left. A clutch 3 by Isaiah Thomas, a couple clutch missed free-throws by John Wall and a Gay 10-foot jumper to force overtime. Sweet, sweet victory.
Elsewhere, the Atlanta Hawks continued to climb out of their tailspin with an OT win of their own against the Toronto Raptors, the Milwaukee Bucks were not so lucky in an OT loss to the Portland Trail Blazers and the Cleveland Cavaliers didn't quite have enough to overcome LeBron James' 43 points in a 100-96 loss to the Miami Heat.
On to today's slate!
Detroit at Denver
The Pistons don't win on the road and don't win against the West so odds are they are facing a loss against the Nuggets. Then again, the Nuggets are particularly vulnerable against skilled big men. Could be a close matchup.
Root for: Denver
San Antonio at LA Lakers
The Lakers stink and are unbelievably impossible to root for, but dammit, they are only three games in front of the Pistons and root for them I will. Beating the league's best team is exceedingly unlikely, of course, but after tonight the Lakers have a stretch where they face the Wizards, Magic, Knicks, Bucks, Timberwolves, Suns, Blazers and Kings. It's essentially now or never for Los Angeles. Could they win five of those games? Six? Whatever happens, I'm sure that final game against the Kings will be extremely interesting for Pistons fans.
Root for: Los Angeles
Miami at Boston
After barely overcoming the Cavaliers hopefully the Heat don't have as much firepower against the Boston Celtics, who currently sit four games in front of the Pistons and probably out of reach.
Root for: Boston
Utah at Memphis
Speaking of out of reach, the Utah Jazz are also four games in front of the Pistons in the lottery standings. They have played like hot garbage for more than a month now and it seems like they are putting the finishing touches on a successfully tanked season. Trey Burke should be willing them to more victories than this.
Root for: Utah
Toronto at New Orleans
This is an exceedingly interesting game. The Raptors have recently fallen to the Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns and the Hawks, which means a Pelicans victory would not be far-fetched, especially with how great Anthony Davis has been plying lately. The suddenly spry Pellies have won four of six, granted two of those games were overtime nail-biters against the Nuggets and Celtics and garbage wins against the Bucks and Lakers. Still, they are trending in the right direction and that is what Pistons fans need to see.
Root for: New Orleans
Indiana at New York
The Phil Jackson effect? Let's pray there is one as everyone in the organization is seemingly playing for their jobs and Carmelo Anthony might be slightly more inclined to stick with the horror show in Madison Square Garden. The Pacers, meanwhile, responded to a four-game losing streak against good teams with a four-game winning streak against bad ones. But the wins against the Celtics, Pistons (in overtime) and Sixers twice were hardly convincing.
Root for: New York