It’s almost the All-Star break, which means it’s almost time to obsessively pore over the standings every day. This is one thing that’s WAY more fun in baseball, because everybody plays every day, so you can live and die with every blip in the standings chasing the playoffs. It’s less extreme in basketball - every game counts, but it’s not quite the same 20-hour roller-coaster - but no less enjoyable.
So, let’s get started with the standings as of February 14:
Here are the games Pistons fans should be keeping an eye tonight:
Philadelphia 76ers vs Miami Heat, 7:00 p.m. EST
This is a win-win scenario for the Pistons: Both of these teams are above them in the standings, so either losing combined with a Pistons win inches the Pistons closer to the playoffs.
If you’re asking me which team I prefer to win, I would say Philadelphia. The Pistons currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Heat, and do not against the 76ers. Miami is also 3-7 in their last 10 games, and fought hard to get back in the game last night against Toronto, but couldn’t overcome giving up 41 points in the third quarter.
Playing the second game of a back-to-back against a team you’re scrapping with in a playoff spot puts the Heat in trouble. Unfortunately, to preserve that tiebreaker, the Pistons will have to do just that; the Pistons-Heat game March 3 in Miami is on a road SEGABABA for Detroit.
(Quick refresher of playoff tiebreaker scenarios, from the guy on Twitter who cares the most about them, Matt Moore:)
1. Division winner vs. non division winner even if teams aren’t from same division 2. Head to head 3. Division record if same div 4. Conference record 5. Record vs conference playoff teams 6. Record vs opposite conference playoff teams 7. Point differential https://t.co/4K2411Jm7X— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 14, 2018
Yeah, I can’t believe point differential is a tiebreaker, either. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Brooklyn Nets vs Indiana Pacers, 7:30 p.m. EST
The Pistons are pretty far back of the Pacers (4.5 games), but Victor Oladipo’s three-point shooting over the last 15 games (31 percent from three instead of the 38 percent he’s averaging for the season) offer some comfort that they could fade down the stretch. The Pistons also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Indiana, so an end-of-season tie in the standings would go to them.
I hate to root against the Pacers - they have a great collection of NBA Twitter follows, are unfailingly nice, and deserve everything they’ve gotten this season after the PG13 departure. However, if it’s the Pistons or the Pacers, I’m willing to fling them into the crucible.
Knicks vs Wizards, 7:30 p.m. EST
Do I think the Pistons will catch the Wizards? Not really.
But the Pistons are only 5 games behind them in the standings, and unlike the Pacers, the Wizards are SUPER fun to root against. They’re a combustible mess, with the mental toughness of a toddler who can’t fit a square peg through a round hole, led by a pocket-watching hater who his own teammates don’t have love for.
No, but really, the Wizards are currently down two point guards and looking into bringing in Ty Lawson to tide them over. When John Wall returns, there could be a dip as they get re-acclimated to his return. The Wizards bear watching. And rooting against. **** wrong witchu, bwoy?
Detroit Pistons vs Atlanta Hawks, 7:00 p.m. EST
Pistons win = good, Pistons lose = bad. Pretty self-explantory. Atlanta is bad, but trying, and, of course, the Pistons have already lost to them this week.
For the Pistons, pay specific attention to Stan Van Gundy’s rotations (Luke Kennard or Langston Galloway - or both? Are there any non-Blake Griffin, non-Andre Drummond frontcourt minutes? How is the Bullock/Johnson/Ennis triumvirate handled?) and the Pistons defensive coverage.
For more Pistons thoughts, stay tuned - the preview will be up shortly.