The headline is scary, but the prospects are real. The Detroit Pistons, losers of two straight, are in the midst of their toughest stretch of the schedule, and face the real possibility of going from 14-6 on No. 29 to 14-13 on Dec. 12.
Somehow the Pistons, already owners of the seventh-most difficult schedule so far this season face a murders’ row in their net five contests. They visit a San Antonio team who just rested a bunch of important players then visit the red-hot Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.
They then face a Golden State team looking to exact some revenge for a late October loss and turn around and face a Boston team also looking to make up for a loss against Detroit. It all ends on Dec. 12 with a visit from the 13-9 Denver Nuggets.
With two losses against tough Eastern Conference teams in Washington and Philly already in their back pocket, the Pistons are staring down the very real possibility of an 0-7 stretch that is sure to make a hesitant fan base even more anxious.
Of course, this team has spent all season defying expectations. They weren’t supposed to beat the then healthy and undefeated Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. And they certainly weren’t supposed to turn around the next night and beat the Warriors in Oracle Arena.
They weren’t supposed to come away with big road wins in Minnesota or Oklahoma City or Boston. But they did. Because this team is for real.
And, truthfully, even if the team drops every game during this tough stretch they will be for real. Maybe not top 3 in the East, but they are a dangerous team on both ends and light years beyond last year’s disappointment.
They should also find their footing again as they approach 2018. After this insanely tough stretch, the Pistons face Atlanta, Indiana, Orlando, Dallas, New York, Indiana, Orlando and San Antonio.
This team is good, I think we can comfortably say that after a 22-game sample size. The Pistons are ranked sixth in the NBA in ESPN’s Relative Percent Index (which takes into account both wins and losses as well as quality of opponent.
They are near the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They have transformed their offense from a predictable pick-and-roll attack to a dynamic motion offense that has unlocked the potential of Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond and complements a slew of efficient 3-point shooters.
They’re good, but they’re not 60-win good. And they’re probably not 40-win bad either. Rough waters are ahead, and if the Pistons come out of it on a seven-game losing streak it will be a profound disappointment but certainly not the end of the world.
And if the Pistons manage to eke out a few wins then it’s just more reason to believe this team isn’t just good but also dangerous.