I didn't actually watch Sunday's Pistons-Bobcat game -- unlike the Pistons, I didn't have Roundball One waiting for me after Saturday's game, and I was still driving when they took the court on Sunday. But just looking at the box score, it was nice to see that Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince picked up where they left off in the first quarter on Saturday. Rip finished with 24 points and five boards while Tay scored 23 with five boards and six assists. The two of them were able to make up for relatively quiet games from Rasheed Wallace (10 points, four boards) and Chauncey Billups (eight points, 11 assists).
Ben Wallace shook off a twisted right ankle to grab 15 boards in 32 minutes, adding eight points and three blocks. Tony Delk added 11 off the bench, going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in the span of just three minutes. Mo Evans failed to score in 19 minutes but tried to make himself useful with three boards and four assists.
The Bobcats lost arguably their best player when Gerald Wallace left early with a strained left calf, but they did get a solid contribution from Melvin Ely (15 points, six boards), who didn't play against Detroit earlier in the year after coming down with the "Rasheed Wallace flu."
Having become the first team in the league to clinch a playoff berth last week, the Pistons are now the first team in the league with 50 wins. In fact, the Pistons have now won at least 50 games the past four years, going 50-32 twice with Rick Carlisle and 54-28 twice under Larry Brown.
There was a lot of hoopla early in the year about the Pistons matching the '84 Tigers mark of 35-5 to start the season. Everyone remembers how the '84 Tigers went on to win the World Series, but nobody talks about how they went "just" 69-53 (.566) over the rest of the regular season following their fantastic start before doing so.
The Pistons were the toast of the league by opening the year 37-5, but they've clearly slipped off that pace by going just 13-7 (.650) over their last 20 games. It's not as pretty as their record earlier in the year, but through it all Detroit still has fewer losses halfway through March this year than they did at the end of December last season. While just one more loss will put a 70-win season officially out of reach, the team needs just 14 more wins to set a franchise record for wins, or 10 more to top 60 wins for just the second time in franchise history.
Despite what we were led to believe early in the year, the regular season isn't supposed to be easy. But even after dropping three of their last six, the Pistons are still in the driver's seat with a one and a half game lead over the Spurs and Mavericks for homecourt advantage through the playoffs. And should they finish with the same record as the Spurs, the Pistons hold the tiebreaker after going 2-0 against them earlier in the year.