There was a big game Wednesday featuring the two teams directly above the Pistons in the lottery rankings squaring off against each other. The Los Angeles Lakers stood two games in front of the Pistons while the Sacramento Kings were one game ahead.
A Lakers win and both teams were just a game ahead of the Pistons while a Kings win would put them in a tie with the Pistons for the seventh spot in the lottery rankings.
In the end, the Kings won 107-102 behind emerging point guard Ray McCallum, formerly of the University of Detroit and Detroit Country Day. McCallum scored 27 points and had five assists. This is the second young point guard to emerge from Sacramento this season following Isaiah Thomas finally putting it all together. And we're stuck with Brandon Jennings and Will Bynum. But I digress.
Other tank results included the Cleveland Cavaliers stomping the Orlando Magic 119-98 and have put so much distance between the Pistons both in talent and in the standings that it's extremely unlikely the Pistons finish with the ninth-worst record.
On to today's slate!
Actually, there are no games with tank implications so instead why don't we take a closer look at the remaining schedules of the Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers and a surprise team.
The Pistons sit at 27-48 with seven games remaining. Those seven games:
|April 4||@ Brooklyn Nets|
|April 5||Boston Celtics|
|April 8||@ Atlanta Hawks|
|April 9||@ Cleveland Cavaliers|
|April 11||@ Chicago Bulls|
|April 13||Toronto Raptors|
|April 16||@ Oklahoma City Thunder|
The Pistons have one definite winnable game against the Celtics. The Pistons will be on the end of a back-to-back, but so will the Celtics so there will be no inherent advantage. The team has another back-to-back right after that with both games on the road. Then games against the Bulls and Raptors who are actually both tied for the third seed in the East and will have plenty of reason to win. The season ends with a road game against the Thunder, which could be resting its starters at the end of the year or in a dogfight with the Clippers for the third seed in the East.
Detroit could certainly lose out and at best would probably go 2-8 based on the trajectory of the season. That would put the Pistons final record at 29-53.
The Kings are tied with the Pistons at 27-48. A look at their remaining games:
|April 4||@ Golden State Warriors|
|April 6||Dallas Mavericks|
|April 8||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|April 9||@Portland Trail Blazers|
|April 12||@ Los Angeles Clippers|
|April 13||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|April 16||Phoenix Suns|
The Kings have four home games and two sets of back-to-backs. They include good teams that have scuffled as of late including road games against the Warriors and Blazers. The team also ends with home games against the Timberwolves, who will be wrapping up another disappointing season. The Suns, meanwhile, will either be fighting for the playoff lives of be facing the fact that they missed out on the postseason and playing with no energy. Let's hope it's the latter. Two three or four wins wouldn't be out of the question.
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles sits two games in front of the Pistons at 25-50 with seven games remaining. Those seven games:
|April 4||Dallas Mavericks|
|April 6||@ Los Angeles Clippers|
|April 8||Houston Rockets|
|April 11||Golden State Warriors|
|April 13||Memphis Grizzlies|
|April 14||@ Utah Jazz|
|April 16||@ San Antonio Spurs|
The Lakers have one winnable game April 14 at the Jazz. They have four home games and no remaining back-to-backs. Unfortunately, that Jazz game might the team's only victory for the rest of the year. There is a chance the team beats the Rockets or Grizzlies, I suppose, but those teams are in the playoff hunt and have a lot to play for. One thing to look out for is the season finale against the Spurs, which could feature the Kings trying to lose and the Spurs resting every player that matters, which is their wont to do. Unfortunately, they would have to win three or four games to even have a chance to pass the Pistons.
The mystery team is the Celtics, who are 23-52 and sit four games in front of the Pistons. Insurmountable, right? Not when you play the Philadelphia 76ers twice. Their seven remaining games:
|April 4||Philadelphia 76ers|
|April 5||@ Detroit Pistons|
|April 9||@ Atlanta Hawks|
|April 11||Charlotte Bobcats|
|April 12||@ Cleveland Cavaliers|
|April 14||@ Philadelphia 76ers|
|April 16||Washington Wizards|
Look at all those winnable games! We can assume the Celtics are about to win a game against the Sixers. That would hypothetically put them three games in front of the Pistons. Then there is the Pistons biggest remaining game of the year against the Celtics. A Boston win will put the Celtics two games in front of Detroit with five games remaining. There are no world-beaters on the schedule, especially if the Cavaliers are officially eliminated by April 12 (unlikely, but possible). Then another win against the Sixers and a final game against the Wizards and will only have something to play for if the final game determines playoff positioning.
The Celtics have disappointed all season and the chance of the team catching Detroit only has, perhaps, a 10 percent chance of happening. But it's something to root for, and I relish the thought of reading Bill Simmons when the Celtics' tanking plans possibly blow up in their face.