The Pistons are 39-35, good enough for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference standings and a first round playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers if the season were to end today (Tuesday, March 29). However, the season does not end today, and with a little over two weeks left in the season, the Pistons have put themselves in a strong position to finally end a playoff drought which stretches all the way back to 2009.
The Pistons have a couple of teams that could realistically overtake them and spoil the party, but the Pistons hold a two-game lead on the No. 8 seed's nearest suitor in Chicago.
Here's how the standings look heading into Tuesday's games.
The Pistons can mathematically finish as high as No. 4, but chasing down the Charlotte Hornets, Boston Celtics, or Miami Heat looks to be a tough ask at this point. More realistically, they could finish as high as No. 7 and book a ticket to face the Toronto Raptors in the first round.
Let's examine the next three games for each team in the playoff race:
NEXT 3: vs. Bulls, vs. Magic, @ 76ers
The Pacers probably have the easiest remaining schedule, as shown in their next three games. The Bulls have been a terrible road team this season, while the Magic have been eliminated from playoff contention. The Sixers, as we all know, are a dumpster fire. Therefore, I can see the Pacers winning these three games fairly comfortably and moving to 42-34. The one good thing is that one of the Pacers and Bulls is guaranteed a loss, helping the Pistons in the standings.
NEXT 3: vs. Thunder, vs. Mavericks, @ Bulls
The Pistons have a very good chance to go 2-1 over the next three games. While the Oklahoma City matchup will be tough due to the presence of Westbrook and Durant, the other two games present massive opportunities to win. Dallas has lost Chandler Parsons for the season and the wheels have fallen off the wagon, as they've fallen to 35-38. Meanwhile, the game in Chicago looms as a key one, and I can see the Pistons going 2-1 to improve to 41-36.
NEXT 3: @ Pacers, @ Rockets, vs. Pistons
This is a very tough next three games for the Bulls, losers of four straight and under .500 for the first time in three years. The Bulls hit the road, where they've been terrible all season, for two tough road games in Indiana and Houston, before going to Detroit. I think the Bulls will go 1-2 at best, but unfortunately for them, 0-3 seems like the most likely scenario. If they do, they'd move to 36-40.
NEXT 3: @ Warriors, @ Kings, @ Suns
The Wizards are in the middle of a long west coast road trip, which they started with a comfortable victory over the LA Lakers. However, they then move on to play the toughest team in the league, holders of a 35-0 home record. The Kings and Suns will be easier games, but the Wizards have been inconsistent enough that they could find one of those games unnecessarily hard. I do think they'll beat both the Kings and Suns though and go 2-1 over the next three, moving to 38-38.
If my projections are correct, the Pistons will hopefully put some distance between themselves and the Bulls due to strength of schedules. The Bulls have a road-heavy schedule and they are only 12-23 on the road this season. While the Wizards also have a fair few home games left, they're 17-18 on the road, and I feel they're in a much better position to challenge the Pistons for that last playoff spot.
Also, the Pistons play both the Bulls and Wizards one more time each before the season ends, so those games will be crucial.