The Detroit Pistons are currently sitting 1 game back of the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, occupied by the Chicago Bulls, and 1.5 games back of the 7th playoff spot, held by the Charlotte Hornets, with 36 games left to play this season. If there was any time for them to make up some ground, it would be this next seven game stretch where they play only two teams with winning records.
Up first is the Miami Heat tonight on the road who the Pistons beat on New Year's Day down in South Beach. The Heat were severely banged up that game and they will have their big stars back and healthy, but it's a game the Pistons should be able to come out with a win. The Andre Drummond-Hassan Whiteside matchups are always fun to watch, but Big Dre usually comes out on top and Detroit can exploit Miami's soft frontline. I like the Pistons in this game.
Photo: Alyssa Blayney
Following that game is another road matchup with the Boston Celtics who the Pistons beat at TD Garden earlier this season. The C's have been playing well lately led by All-Star Isaiah Thomas and complementary star Al Horford. This is a game where I expect Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to have a big impact especially with Avery Bradley expected to miss the game. I like Detroit to come out on top this game as well.
Following that matchup, the Pistons return home to host young superstar Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans on February 1st. The last time the Pelicans were at the Palace, Davis scored a franchise record 59 points and pulled down 20 rebounds. I highly doubt that happens again and the Pistons have more depth and more weapons. Detroit wins this game as well.
Following that, they have to head to Indiana and given the Pistons struggles in the past of defending Paul George, I don't like this game for Detroit at all. Myles Turner and Jeff Teague also always play well against Detroit and I think it will be too much to overcome. They probably drop this one.
Then however, they end the 7 game stretch against Philadelphia and the Lakers at home. Given that the 76ers came into the Palace in December and embarrassed the Pistons, you have to think Stan Van Gundy's crew will come out firing that game. I fully expect the Pistons to beat the Sixers and get some revenge in that game. The Lakers game will be a little tougher, but given how bad they are on the road, that's another win I give to the Pistons.
So after looking at the seven matchups, the Pistons can easily go 6-1 or 5-2 at the worst. Given how close they are to the standings, all of the drama going in Chicago, Milwaukee beginning to slide, and Charlotte being so up and down, this is a huge opportunity to strike. Over the four day break, Van Gundy emphasized effort on the defensive end so it will be interesting to see if the players respond and take care of business.
The opportunity to strike is now.