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It’s time for the Pistons to play like they belong in the NBA Playoffs

Detroit has 26 playoff games left. They need to make them count

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Well. This feels familiar.


The Pistons, at 26-30, are in playoff position coming out of the All-Star break, in the eighth and final spot, and have 26 games left to solidify (or improve) that slot. This has been the story for the last two seasons in Detroit - enter the All-Star break slightly below .500, hang around in the playoff picture, and then hope to be faster than the slowest person the lottery bear is chasing.

I’ve written this story before, once or twice. I’ve recorded this podcast before.

But things are different now. The Pistons have the best player they’ve obtained in a decade obliterating teams from the post and the perimeter. Their (flawed? talented? overpaid? indispensable?) perplexing starting point guard looks to have the burst that made the difference in his game back, and in turn, that burst has energized their oft-lethargic center.

It’s time to stop running from the lottery bear. It’s time to turn, wrestle the bear to the ground, and walk away the victor.


Here’s the Pistons’ schedule the rest of the season:

2018-19 Pistons’ Schedule

The first thing you notice is the abundance of road games - 15 of the final 26 games are on the road, including that five-game road trip in mid-to-late March. The second thing you notice is that the Pistons still have games left against the teams they’re running with - two games against Miami, a game against Brooklyn, a game against Charlotte, a game against Orlando. As far as tiebreakers go, they control their own destiny.

The final thing you notice is all the games they cannot lose against tanking teams - a game against the frisky Hawks (who they have already lost to) immediately following the break, a home-and-home with the Bulls, two games against the Cavaliers, another Knicks matchup. Winning all of those games alone isn’t enough to put them into the playoffs, but losing any (ANY) of them sows the seeds of discontent.


This stretch of season is the real playoffs for Detroit.

FiveThirtyEight currently gives Detroit a 65 percent chance of making the playoffs, with a sub-.500 record, as the seventh seed. There’s no reason the Pistons shouldn’t reach 38 to 40 wins, all but assuring themselves a playoff spot. The only thing that tells us they won’t... is the last two years, where, with many of the same players they have now, they’ve faltered in the exact same situation.

Some nights the rest of the team let Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond down. Some nights, the team as a whole played well against superior competition and it wasn’t enough. Some nights, they played down to the level of their opponent and lost because of it. And some nights, they just got their faces kicked in.

Well, now, it’s time to kick some faces. No playing down to your opponent. No “we didn’t have it tonight.” Now, the Pistons have to go out every night - EVERY NIGHT - and bulldoze their opponent down low with their two best players.

The road to the postseason isn’t being paved by tanking teams. There’s no six-game homestand on the schedule to save them. This Pistons team is actually going to have to play hard, and play well, to make the postseason.