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Time to find silver linings: Clippers 97, Pistons 91

These days, Pistons fans face an uncomfortable dilemma: with the playoffs all but officially out of the picture, is it actually acceptable to root for the team to lose?

After all, the quickest way to transform this roster from an odd-ball collection of also-rans and almost-weres is to add a franchise player via the draft, and as enjoyable as a late-season surge toward the playoffs might be now, the long-term health of this franchise directly hinges on the number of lottery balls it owns come May.

So what's a loyal fan to do?

I don't think there's a right or wrong answer, but regardless of how you feel about it, we should all agree that more games like Wednesday's against the Clippers will make the rest of this season more enjoyable.

Wait a minute, you say. What's so fun about a six-point loss? The Pistons had this game in the palm of their hand, taking control in the first quarter and holding onto into the fourth. And even if they finished on a sour note, allowing the Clippers to close the gap for good on a 37-22 run, the Pistons actually held the lead with fewer than 30 seconds left in the game.

In fact, with fewer than eight seconds left in the game Rip Hamilton nearly had a chance to tie it -- he was fouled on a three-point attempt that was quite literally halfway through the hoop before it rattled out, which, had it gone in, would have set the stage for a four-point play. Instead, the ball popped out, and Hamilton, who connected on 51 consecutive free throws before missing in the second quarter, proceeded to clang three in a row.

Game, set, match.

Go figure, it happens. The late-game collapse was frustrating but not surprising, not with Detroit's veterans logging heavy minutes on both ends of a back-to-back.

But more importantly, Pistons fans (or at least those who stayed up to watch the 10:30 PM ET tip-off) got the chance to be entertained for three quarters and change before ultimately watching the team fall on the sword for the greater good of the franchise.

OK, that's not entirely accurate; I don't suspect for a minute the players on the court give a damn about lottery balls, but the fact remains they lost. And in a battle for lottery balls against a team that Detroit very well may be jockeying for position with in the standings, the loser is actually the winner.

I don't want to root for the Pistons to lose in part because I don't want to watch bad basketball, but if I can walk away from a game that featured three and a half enjoyable quarters and a potential game-winner that fell just short, well, at least it doesn't feel like my entire evening was wasted.

Kicks in the gut are the new pats on the back. Good job, fellas. You'll get 'em tomorr-- er, next year.

Last but not least, actual thoughts on the game ...

• As well as Tayshaun Prince's line looks in the box score (17 points, 10 rebounds), the fact remains that he was on the court for every minute of the fourth when his man, Rasual Butler, lit the Pistons up for 12 points, including three 3-pointers. Prince finished with 38 minutes on the night and is averaging 35.4 for the month. Austin Daye, meanwhile, played just six minutes. That, my friends, is just stupid.

• Hamilton finished with 21 points but needed 21 shots and eight free-throw attempts to make it happen. As previously mentioned, his streak of consecutive free throws was snapped at 51 in the second quarter; he finished the game a perplexing 2-8. When you're in the groove, you can't miss. Once you get out of the groove, you can't make a shot to save your life. That's just how it goes.

• From Steve Perrin of Clips Nation:

The Pistons are paying $16.5M this season, and $96M over five seasons, to two guys who played a combined 36 minutes tonight - and they signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva this summer. It's not like they got a couple good years out of them and then they declined. The contract is starting out as a disaster - we'll have to invent new words for how bad it will be a couple of years from now. Gordon didn't make a shot or score a point. Those contracts are going to doom the Pistons to mediocrity for 3 or 4 seasons at least.


• Few media outlets do X's and O's better than Kevin Arnovitz's ClipperBlog -- his recap doesn't disappoint.

Jason Maxiell was awesome -- 14 points (7-9 FG) and eight boards (five offensive) in 22 minutes off the bench. More like that, please.

• What did I miss? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Final - 2.24.2010 1 2 3 4 Total
Detroit Pistons 25 24 22 20 91
Los Angeles Clippers 22 19 26 30 97

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