The Pistons wrap-up their regular season series with the Heat tonight down in South Beach. And while this game will not have any impact on who ends the regular season with the best record in the East (the Pistons have locked up that distinction), both teams have a little something to play for as the season winds down. The Pistons are, at least partially, concerned with finishing the season with the best overall record in the Association and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Heat are merely hoping to hold the streaking New Jersey Nets at bay in order to finish with the second seed in the East. (With their 13 game win streak, the Nets have managed to cut Miami's lead to just 3.5 games and are down only 3 games in the loss column.)
Or are they? Building upon Matt's question earlier this week -- (Why would a team lose on purpose?) -- were the postseason to start today, I wonder if Miami would really covet that second seed. After all, the second seed in the East would be matched against the Indiana Pacers (36-38), while the third seed would play the Milwaukee Bucks (37-38). On it's face, the 3/6 matchup certainly appears to be the easier road to the conference semis, given Indiana's playoff experience and a healthier-by-the-day Jermaine O'Neal (their 3-7 mark in the last 10, notwithstanding). Piston fans would seem to agree that Indiana poses a tougher matchup. Moreover, the Bucks' play of late (including the tightly contested -- but thankfully raw sewage-free -- loss at the Palace and an ugly meltdown against Miami), has been uneven at best.
Regardless of my unsupported speculations, Pistons v. Heat usually results in a playoff-like atmosphere, and I'm sure tonight's game will follow suit. Given that the Pistons, since their Game 7 win in last summer's Conference Finals, have taken up residence in Miami's psyche, it is plausible to think that this game, again, means much more to the Heat than to the Pistons (even with injury loss of both Alonzo Mourning and Jason Williams).
So, in short, don't expect tonight's game to be toned-down simply because the playoffs are around the corner. Who knows, with the Nets awaiting Miami in the second round, this may be our last chance to root against Kazaam's constant offensive fouling until '06-07. You wouldn't want to miss that now, would you?
Is that all the Bucks got? [Bucks Diary]
Williams shut down for remainder of regular season [Miami Herald]