Flip Saunders made a very good point in today's Detroit News while addressing the Pistons' recent less-than-stellar performances:
"We are not in a situation right now, where we have to really turn it on and go," he said. "It's a fine line between trying to get everything well-oiled and pushing too hard. Right now, from our perspective, we're looking to play 45-to-50 more games. You look at it that way and you'll be careful how you approach things."
As the News points out, the Pistons played 25 playoff games last year -- that's 107 total games between the regular season and playoffs. In fact, the articles goes on to say that no team in the NBA has played in more total games the past three years than Detroit (they've averaged 103.6 in that span), which makes sense considering they made it to the conference championships in 2003 before going to the NBA Finals the next two years.
And while the schedule gets tougher from here on out in terms of the opponents being played, the Pistons will have the advantage of playing at home more often than not. From the Free Press:
The only multiple-game trip left for the Pistons is a swing to Miami and Orlando on April 6 and 7.
"We were home almost the whole month of December and we took advantage of it," Saunders said of the Pistons, who went 13-2 in December. "And we've been playing great at home. We've got 11 of our last 17 at home, and we're going to be in a situation of not many long road trips. So we can lock into things."
All things considered, this is probably the ideal way to end the regular season: playing tough competition at home to get the team primed and ready for the playoffs. Plus, seven of the remaining 17 games will be played in front of a national audience on either ESPN, TNT or ABC (plus another on NBA TV), and you have to imagine the Pistons will bring the energy on games played on such a big stage.
I can't help but look at the next 15 games and think 12 wins. While the Pistons should be able to handle their last two games of the year (at Milwaukee, home against Washington), all bets are off since I'm guessing Detroit's regular starters will make only nominal appearances while the Bucks and Wizards will be fighting tooth and nail for playoff positioning. Incidentally, 12 more wins would give them 64 on the year, which is one better than the current franchise record.