Two teams fighting for the playoffs had big road games last night.
One of them had some huge games from key contributors, but just not quite enough to get over the hump for the win. They lost a heartbreaker. Despite their best effort and thanks to a couple of shaky calls, they dropped a close one.
The other one came out ridiculously flat and was humiliated on national television.
The first team was the Denver Nuggets. They had put together a nice winning streak to position themselves for a run to try sneaking into the playoffs. But with a four game road stretch coming up, three of those against playoff teams, last night's loss might have slammed the door shut on their playoff hopes. It's tough to see them bouncing back from such a tough game.
You'll never guess who that other team was.
Now the Wizards last night, they were feeling it. The Pistons played some lousy defense, but even when they did bring it, Washington hit some nice shots. Even an A+ effort from the Pistons offense would have hard a hard time topping them.
The best case scenario is a win. But the second best case scenario might be an ass-kicking. Take a look at some other times the Pistons have faced some humbling experiences this year.
After a five game losing streak, capped off by a 59 point performance from Anthony Davis, the Pistons bounced back to win four straight behind some of their best defense of the season.
Last night was their worst loss of the season. The comments coming out of the game sound like a team taking a look in the mirror.
"Three games straight, we haven't had an identity," Jackson said. "I don't think anybody in the world really knows who the Pistons are right now and what they're going to bring night in, night out. So we've got to figure out who we are, look inside ourselves, our teammates; we've really got to figure out what we want to do and where we want to be."
"Everybody probably needs to let this settle in," Jackson said, "be as pissed as you can be, and then use it as fuel, because we're still in a realistic position to make the playoffs but we're not doing ourselves any favors winning one and dropping one. So we've got to get this on track."
One consistency with those three games has been a lack of defense. Fortunately, Andre Drummond was talking about defense:
"We've got to buckle down defensively, one through five, one through 15. We need to come to play. I'm not trying to go home early."
This is a young team, still learning the lesson that you can't just show up and win. Sometimes it needs some sense knocked into it. Hopefully last night did a sufficient job of that.
Coming up is a nine-game homestand. With the playoffs on the line. And with none of the teams' names being the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs, each is certainly winnable. So long as the Pistons' heads are screwed on right.
In short, this is the biggest stretch of games the Pistons have had since George W. Bush was president. Heading into it on a winning streak would be great. But an ego bruising might be the next best thing.