Fond memories of bygone days
Can you recall the optimism that still pervaded this noble blog back in late November, when it seemed possible that a 3-10 team might win three or more of its next seven contests? Over 60 percent of the 445 fans who voted in an online poll expected at least three victories. Only 10 percent expected one win or less. But the pessimists proved to be the realists, as the Pistons went 0-7.
While it seemed highly improbable that this year’s team could reach last year’s 10-10 record, the challenge ahead is even more daunting. Under Mo Cheeks, Detroit was 14-16 through 30 games. If they could have kept up that winning percentage of .467, the Pistons would have won 38 games and made the playoffs. But in fact they never got that close to .500 again.
Nevertheless, even if this year’s 3-17 squad were to win 10 in a row, it would still be only 13-17. And is such a turn-around conceivable?
No. But it is possible that the team could begin to post wins more regularly. During the strike-shortened 2011-12 season, the Pistons sputtered out of the gate to a 4-20 record. Then they won seven of their next nine games on their way to at 25-41 finish. However, that improvement was aided by an easier schedule. Has the NBA schedule maker gifted Detroit with an early Christmas present of patsies between now and our 30th game on Dec. 28?
No. Unfortunately, it looks like the Grinch was guiding the scheduling process for these Pistons. (However, when you lose at home to a 1-18 76ers team, it’s not like an abundance of “Tiny Tim’s” are available to bring some Christmas cheer to Motown!) Only three of their next 10 foes have a losing record as of now.
Take a look ahead
Since we are only about one-fourth of the way through 2014-15, it is probably premature to write-off the next 62 games as a lost cause. Yet the next 10 may be as tough a slate as Detroit will face all season. So let’s pull out the crystal ball and do some prognosticating.
Game 21 (Sun., Dec. 7): Thunder at Pistons
Detroit posted its third win this year in Oklahoma City with a 96-89 overtime triumph. That Thunder squad was missing both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, however, and they have both returned to the floor recently. Not surprisingly, they have also started to win games again. Yes, they are still shaking off some rust, but they are facing a Motor City model in need of a whole new paint job. The losing streak could easily stretch to 12.
Game 22 (Tues., Dec. 9): Trail Blazers at Pistons
Portland was the surprise team of 2013-14, improving by 21 wins to make the playoffs with a 54-28 record. They currently hold a commanding lead in the NBA’s Northwest Division, and among all teams only Golden State has more victories. They boast the sixth rated offense and fifth-rated defense. Will Stan Van Gundy counter their large frontline of LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez by starting Detroit’s “twin towers” of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond? Will it make any difference given the other weapons at Portland’s disposal? A 13th loss in a row seems very likely.
Advantage: Trail Blazers
Game 23 (Fri., Dec. 12): Pistons at Suns
Detroit lost narrowly to Phoenix at home, 88-86, back in November. The Suns have struggled to make much headway, but they are still above .500 in the Western Conference. Their previous four opponents (Mavericks, Rockets, Clippers, Heat) were challenging, and they must travel to face the Thunder on Sunday. So it is possible that they will not take the woeful Pistons seriously. Surely the Pistons can beat one decent team before they bid farewell to 2014. If not, they could tie the worst losing streak in team history of 14, set in 1979-80.
Game 24 (Sat., Dec. 13): Pistons at Kings
Sacramento has not had a winning season in 10 years, but this year’s edition has been playing .500 ball and has posted quality wins over the Bulls, Clippers, Spurs, Suns and Trail Blazers. They have stumbled of late as DeMarcus Cousins missed some games due to a viral infection, but assuming he’s good to go this should be a victory for the home team. (Perhaps Josh Smith will have his best game of the season so the Kings are tempted to make Van Gundy an offer he cannot refuse.)
Game 25 (Mon., Dec. 15): Pistons at Clippers
Detroit put up a good fight when Los Angeles’ best team came to town back on Thanksgiving Eve. But Chris Paul was equal to the challenge in the fourth quarter, and it’s hard to imagine that he and Blake Griffin will not do whatever it takes to win this contest.
Game 26 (Wed., Dec. 17): Mavericks at Pistons
Detroit returns home to face another Western Conference power, which is battling toe to toe with the Grizzlies, Rockets and Spurs for dominion in the NBA’s best division – the Southwest. Is it too much to expect that the Pistons can down Dallas? Yes.
Game 27 (Fri., Dec. 19): Raptors at Pistons
The Canadians are coming! Toronto has been weakened by the loss of its leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan. But they have solid depth at the guard positions, and still boast the best record in the Eastern Conference. While Coach Dwane Casey has been noted as a defensive expert, the Raptors offense is rated first in the NBA. Through their first 20 games, they failed to top 100 points only three times. That looks like bad news for a Pistons team that has passed the century mark only three times.
Game 28 (Sun., Dec. 21): Pistons at Nets
Finally Detroit gets to face a mediocre team again! Brooklyn has been struggling to breach .500, but that did not stop them from notching a 102-90 victory at the Palace on Nov. 1. Since then oft-injured center Brook Lopez has returned to action, which should make this an even tougher match-up for the visitors.
Game 29 (Fri., Dec. 26): Pacers at Pistons
It may be a day late, but this home contest is the closest thing to a gift on Detroit’s schedule this month. Even then, an Indiana team without two of its leading scorers from 2013-14 has still won over twice as often as the Pistons have this season. It may not be a Motor City miracle, but a victory seems possible.
Game 30 (Sun., Dec. 28): Pistons at Cavaliers
The CLeBron CavaLoves are still very much a work in progress (especially on defense), but they have put together a winning streak recently and are challenging the Bulls for supremacy in the Central Division. They have frequently started some unusual large line-ups, with LeBron James and Shawn Marion as the wings alongside Anderson Varejao, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Pistons’ fans will be curious to see how Van Gundy responds, though it’s always a safe bet that Josh Smith will start.
What can we expect?
Frankly, a 2-8 record over the next 10 outings does not appear to be a pessimistic projection for a team that has played under .200 ball so far this season. Given that the opposition Detroit will face is loaded with teams who have legitimate playoff aspirations, even reaching 5-25 could be expecting too much. While the schedule for the rest of the year might offer them some more respite, unless these Pistons improve their play they are in real danger of matching the worst record in franchise history – 16-66 in 1979-90.
What are your prognostications for Detroit next 10 games? Vote in the attached poll and then share your thoughts.