By winning Monday's game against the Knicks, the Pistons collected their 50th win of the season. At first glance, that may not seem like a big deal. This is a legitimate title contender, right? They're supposed to win 50 games. It's something we've become accustomed to taking for granted.
What's impressive, though, is the fact they've won 50 games for the sixth season in a row, setting a new franchise record. In fact, in the entire history of this franchise, there have been only 13 seasons with at least 50 wins, and almost half of them have come from this current generation of Pistons.
Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not putting the current group anywhere near the pedestal that the "Bad Boys" era Pistons reside on -- those guys "only" had five 50-win seasons (1986-1991) but also made it to the Eastern Conference Finals each year in that span, not to mention the NBA Finals three times.
(The Red Wings, meanwhile, can connect both of those generations with their current string of success -- they've reached the playoffs 16 consecutive years, the longest active streak in all of sports. If you know me, I don't praise the Wings very often, but that's damn impressive.)
There's really no telling how far or long this current group of Pistons will last, especially if younger players like Carlos Delfino and Jason Maxiell continue to develop and if the team is able to hit a home run with a prospect, either with Amir Johnson or one of the draft picks in this upcoming draft. I know I'm not the only one planning out Detroit's future ... but that's neither here nor there, at least in regards to Monday's game.
On Monday, the Pistons overcame a sloppy third quarter which saw a 10-point lead not only evaporate but worse yet transform into a 10-point deficit in the span of roughly 10 minutes. Detroit turned on the defense in the fourth, though, and this game was well in hand with plenty of time to spare.
Nate Robinson is a fun guy to watch, but I imagine that's only true when he's on the other team. Basically, he's wasted movement with little production. He's super athletic and appears to hustle, but he's also plagued by not having a drop of court awareness or basketball IQ. As it happens, I'm not the only one to make that observation tonight -- from the up-and-coming BasketBloom:
It doesn't really show up in the box score, but almost everything he did would have made a basketball purist cringe: An endless string of failed forays into the paint (with not a single free-throw attempt to show for it). A consistent impatience while pushing the ball upcourt before his teammates could join him to set up the offense. Shots that demonstrated a lack of any semblance of shooting conscience. A complete inability to pass the ball (1 assist). I could go on and on. Suffice it to say, when your point guard takes nearly 30% of your team's shots, that's not a good thing.
... and that's not even mentioning his two most entertaining plays, noted by Posting and Toasting:
On two separate occasions, his folly directly caused Curry to get posterized. One time he saved a ball going out of bounds...directly to Delfino, who rose and stuffed over the big man. Another time he attempted a silly transition three, which got blocked and turned into a full-on facial of Curry by Tayshaun Prince.
Robinson owes Eddy Curry big-time, because he got him on the wrong end of a SportsCenter highlight twice in one night. Curry actually finished with 24 points, which was two fewer than what Tayshaun Prince (12), Rasheed Wallace (8) and Chris Webber (6) combined for, but the Pistons made him work for them: he nailed 12-14 free throws. Detroit front court wasn't a complete wash, though, as Antonio McDyess came through with a double-double (11 points, 13 boards).
I'd be amiss not to mention Chauncey Billups, who was largely responsible for erasing Detroit's double-digit deficit in the waning seconds of the third quarter by scoring five quick points, including a long two at the buzzer. That really gave Detroit momentum heading into the final frame. Billups finished with 22 and six assists.
Detroit's "magic number" for clinching the top seed in the East is now just one -- and the Pistons have an excellent chance of putting that behind them on Wednesday when the Magic come to town. Expect the Pistons to take care of business -- the Magic are currently seeded eighth in the East, so this is a potential first-round matchup, and the last thing anyone wants is to instill confidence in a team they're due to face in a seven-game series.