With Chicago's 112-106 win over Indiana earlier this afternoon, the Pistons are now 1/2 a game back from the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Tonight, however, appears to be the best opportunity to close that gap with a game against the Eastern Conference's worst team, the Washington Wizards. This could be the second time in a week that the Wizards help out the Pistons' playoff hopes, as they defeated the 9th seed Charlotte Bobcats to give Detroit a two-and-a-half game cushion from an early end to the season.
Mike Payne here to give Kevin S. a break for the day-- and since his game previews kick so much ass, I'd be a fool to change the formula!
7:00 pm ET
Pistons: 34-37 (16-18 road)
Last 10: 3-7
Wizards: 17-56 (12-25 home)
Last 10: 3-7
The Eastern Conference's worst team is also its most injured-- only two players on the Wizards' roster have played all 73 games this season, namely Antawn Jamison and Nick Young. Tonight, however, the Wizards expect all-star blogger Gilbert Arenas to return and start against Detroit. The last time that happened, Arenas notched 36 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds against the Pistons. Its safe to assume we won't see that kind of production tonight out of a very rusty "Agent Zero".
In addition to the return of Arenas, all-star Caron Butler is expected to return from a seven game absence due to a sore left hamstring. Fortunately for Pistons fans, Detroit Kryptonite Darius Songaila will sit out this game with a pinched nerve in his neck.
What competition does a healthy Washington Wizards team present to the Detroit Pistons? That depends on how healthy the Pistons will be tonight. Rip Hamilton is expected to return, quite possibly joined by Rasheed Wallace. If both teams see the return of two of their best from a long absence, expect things to start a bit sloppy.
The Drama (for Detroit):
Missing the playoffs is a real possibility. This game against the Wizards will be as easy as it gets for the rest of the regular season. A loss tonight may carry a hefty blow toward team morale. No matter how well Detroit plays, there will be no more "moral victories" for the rest of this season.
The Drama (for the Main Stream Media):
Keys for Detroit
Score the Basketball: Seriously. This is the worst defensive team in the NBA on account of FG% allowed (48.3%). Take the opportunity to control the tempo but don't rush your shots. (Note to Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum: the 'Zards are stacked with energetic bigs who block shots-- watch out for Blatche, McGee and McGuire)
Don't Forget the Wizards Bench: Nick Young, Darius Songaila and Juan Dixon have all hurt us this year. Don't give another random bench player a chance for a spot on tomorrow's highlight on ESPN. While it's natural to keep your eyes on Jamison, Butler and Arenas, Nick Young is hoping you don't know his name.
Go for the Knees: Hehe, totally kidding.
Question of the Game
Will Arenas's return (also known as throw-a-bone-to-your-season-ticket-holders-so-they'll-buy-again-next-season) prove successful for the Wizards? Will Hamilton's (and possibly Rasheed's) return give the Pistons the weapons they need to ensure a spot in the playoffs? The game starts at 7:00 pm ET on FSD.