Gifts can come from the strangest of places. Take Thursday night, for example. Achieving the league's best record had been the stated goal of these Pistons since last season's game 7 loss in San Antonio, yet it was the all-of-a-sudden unbeatable Orlando Magic that gave the Pistons the gift of home court advantage Thursday night by knocking off the Spurs 92-80 in San Antonio. With the loss, the Spurs' best possible win total this season is 63 -- equal to the Pistons current win total. Of course, due to the Pistons' season sweep of Spurs series, the tiebreaker belongs to the Boys in Blue.
Ironic as it may seem, the Pistons clinched in large part due to the contributions of one Darko Milicic (ironic because it will probably be remembered as his greatest contribution to Detroit, months after leaving). A couple weeks ago, we brought in a real-life Magic fan to educate us on how well the human victory cigar was adjusting to his new sunny locale. The answer? Just fine, thank you. Darko went for 14 points, 7 boards, 3 blocks, and a steal in tonight's matchup, and further staked his claim next to Dwight Howard as a member of one of the intriguing, potentially dominant frontcourts in the league.
With the home court now secured for the Pistons, you can definitely expect to see a lot more Kelvin Cato and Carlos Delfino in the coming days as the starters rest up for the playoffs. Even better, we may actually get to see a bit more of Alex Acker, Amir Johnson, and Jason Maxiell should Flip decide to give some of the starters a night off. Me, I fully expect Sheed to let loose on the refs and collect a tech or two during the next couple games (against the Raps and Knicks); 1) because he can now afford to miss a game or two, and 2) because, honestly, the refs kinda have it coming.
Lastly, with the playoffs little more than a week away, it is time to include the Magic in our discussions of potential first round playoff opponents. With only three games left to play, Orlando currently trails Philadephia and Chicago by 2.5 games for the 8th seed in the East, and they play each team once more. While unlikely, the Pistons may not have seen the last of Dwight, Darko, and the Magic this season. What's this? A first round matchup that would be remotely entertaining? Outstanding.
Magic 92, Spurs 80 box score [ESPN]