The NBA regular season is 82 games long, but with a win in their 80th outing tonight the Pistons will achieve the goal every team aims for beginning in October – the playoffs. While closing with two more victories might even secure them the seventh seed, that is a subject for another day. The first order of business is to knock out a Washington team that won the three previous matches by margins of two, 12 and 43 points.
Where: The Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI
When: Friday, April 8, 2016, 7:30 PM EST
For fans of the 38-40 Wizards, the hope is that they can win all four of their remaining games, while the 42-37 Pistons drop their last three. A single victory by Detroit – or a single loss by Washington – will lock up the eighth seed for Stan Van Gundy’s squad. Since the Pistons own the tiebreaker, 39-40 Chicago (losers to Miami last night) cannot move ahead of them.
Assuming that the Wizards are desperate to avoid elimination, and possess supreme confidence based on how thoroughly they spanked the Pistons in mid-March, we might expect them to triumph once more. But it’s a funny game. After losing at home to an injury-riddled Dallas team, Detroit downed the Bulls on the road the next night. Then after getting whipped Tuesday on national TV by the Heat, the Pistons rallied to beat the Magic on Wednesday.
The lesson for all of us Motor City maniacs? Anything can happen Friday night.
Washington also won on Wednesday, dispatching Brooklyn, 121-103, even though John Wall was held out due to a bum right knee. Ramon Sessions filled-in admirably, scoring 18 points and dishing out 13 assists, and Bradley Beal led all scorers with 25.
The Wizards were 30-35 when they pulverized the Pistons some three weeks ago, and they promptly put together a string of five victories to lift their record to .500. Since then they have gone 3-5, victims of a schedule that sent them on a West Coast road trip while Detroit was enjoying a long home stand. Three of their losses were to the Hawks, Warriors and Clippers.
Detroit was only 34-33 after that debacle at the Verizon Center, and looked like a prime candidate to fade out of contention. Instead they rallied to go 8-4 (6-3 at home, 2-1 away). Nail-biting conquests of Oklahoma City, Chicago and Orlando have now put them in a commanding position to clinch their first playoff berth since 2009.
Pistons: Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond
Wizards: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat
Pistons: Jodie Meeks (out – foot)
Wizards: Alan Anderson (out – ankle), John Wall (questionable – knee)
Andre Drummond vs. Marcin Gortat
No team has hampered Drummond more successfully this season than Washington, holding him to 8.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. Gortat has averaged 15.0 ppg against the Pistons, and Nene Hilario has chipped in 14.0 ppg. The Wizards big men have done a masterful job of blocking out, as Drummond has only managed 1.7 offensive rebounds per game. Only Utah has done a better job (1.0 orpg). The last time the Pistons triumped (106-89 on Feb. 22, 2015), Drummond dominated with 18 points and 16 boards.
Last Time We Met
March 14, 2015 at the Verizon Center, Wizards won 124-81
This game was a total humiliation for Detroit, as Washington jumped out to a 30-7 lead and never looked back. Seven Wizards scored in double figures, whereas only Caldwell-Pope (18) and Darrun Hilliard (10) topped that mark.
Pistons 105, Wizards 96
Can Drummond dominate his final 2015-16 meeting with Gortat?