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Pistons vs. Heat: Playoffs clinched, still need to win

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Though Detroit has clinched a playoff berth with two games left in the regular season, the Pistons should still play to win.

Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

The Pistons are in the playoffs.

With the Cleveland Cavaliers clinching the top spot in the Eastern Conference last night, whoever finishes the season in the eighth spot will have a tall challenge. Although the Pistons are 2-1 against the Cavaliers this season (with a game against them tomorrow), they still have a chance to overtake the Indiana Pacers for the seventh seed and face the second-seeded Toronto Raptors. Their opponent is in their hands.

Game Details

When: Tuesday, April 12th, 2016 at 7:30 PM EST

Where: The Palace of Auburn Hills - Auburn Hills, MI

Watch: Fox Sports Detroit (thank goodness it's not TNT)

Game Analysis

The third through sixth spots in the Eastern Conference are still up for grabs. Only one game separates those teams, and Miami is only a half game back from the third seed. With the Atlanta Hawks facing the Washington Wizards tomorrow in Washington, Miami has a fighting chance to take that third seed with a win against Detroit and then Boston (who is currently sitting in the fifth spot). So, you can expect a fight out of the Miami Heat this evening.

For Detroit, the game does not matter AS much. It matters, but even if the Pistons won their final two games, both against playoff teams, the Indiana Pacers (who have the season series tiebreaker over the Pistons) have two much easier opponents the final two days. There's a 90 percent chance the Pistons will finish the regular season in the eighth seed, and that's ok.

But it is all about momentum. With the Pistons facing two playoff teams tonight and tomorrow, it would be a major boost of confidence to go into the playoffs not only on a winning streak, but having beaten quality competition (provided the Cavaliers don't sit LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving). After the embarrassment the Pistons suffered against the Heat on national television a week ago, they also have revenge on their minds.

Last time we met

April 5th, 2016 - Pistons 89, Heat 107

The Pistons are 1-3 in nationally televised games. Their last, against the Heat, was very difficult to watch. And I blame that on Taco Mac. Hypnowheel, Packey and yours truly got together (an hour and 45 minute trek for me) to watch what we hoped might be a huge win towards the Pistons clinching a playoff spot. The place was Taco Mac in Buckhead and they had a ton of TVs to watch the game. I got there just before 8, Hypnowheel was already there, and Packey was on his way after mentoring some youth. We were not greeted nor offered refreshments until Hypnowheel went and found a server. We asked that the game be put on, but that wasn't done until nearly a half hour later. In the meantime, we had to watch it on the TNT app on my iPhone 6S Plus. That's a big phones as phones go, but nothing like their 40+ inch TVs. By the time the game came on the TVs, we were already well behind the Heat. It allowed for some great conversation and amazing company. (It wasn't Taco Mac's fault, and I do hope to go back, as they had some amazing nachos.)

Anyways, as far as the game goes, Pistons lost by 18, never really seemed to get any momentum to make a push, and shots just did not fall. Marcus Morris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Stanley Johnson combined for 2-for-22 shooting (0-for-7 from distance). Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris led the Pistons in scoring with 21 apiece, but Jackson's points came on 6-for-18 shooting while Harris' came on 8-for-10 shooting. Goran Dragic lead the Heat in scoring with 22 points and was followed up by rookie Josh Richardson with 16 (4-5 from distance).

Players to watch

Pistons: Stanley Johnson

Over the last ten games (of which he's played in eight), Stanley Johnson has been playing poorly. A shooting line of 25.0/25.0/85.7 to go with 2.1 turnovers per game ended up with Stan Van Gundy calling Reggie Bullock's number the last two games. Well, Van Gundy said he's back in the rotation. As Keith Langlois put it, Stan said "Johnson's D needed for playoff matchups". His defense has not wavered, it's been good for a rookie. However, it may serve the Pistons best if he focused on defense and deferred on offense a bit. Still love the kid.

Heat: Josh Richardson

Sticking with rookies, Richardson has been playing out of his mind since the All-Star break. As stated earlier, he was 4-for-5 from distance in the previous game against the Pistons. He also played 35 minutes, which was the most for the Heat that night. He doesn't provide them much other than offense, but pointz wins games (and defense wins championships!)

Injuries

Pistons: None

Heat: Chris Bosh, Tyler Johnson, Justice Winslow

Projected Starters

Pistons: Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond

Heat: Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Luol Deng, Hassan Whiteside

Community Question

Even if you want the Pistons to face the Cavaliers in the first round, as 45% of the voters in our poll chose, do you want the Pistons to win this game?