The Pistons had to lose it… and they did.
Is it dramatic to say that this was the most important loss in recent Detroit Pistons ’ history?
Because I think it was.
With just eight games to go, the Pistons are nearing the finish line in one of the worst seasons (record wise) in franchise history. They are thisclose to having among the best possible odds to land a potential franchise-changing talent in Cade Cunningham.
And on Monday, all that stood between them and that magic number — 14% odds at the top pick — were the Orlando Magic . Two franchises that battled for Eastern Conference supremacy not too long ago battling for supremacy in sucking.
Tonight, though, the shorthanded Pistons got the “best” of Orlando, falling 119-112.
Trailing by 14 with just over six minutes to play, the Pistons didn’t quit. The kids rallied to get it within 108-106 on Hamidou Diallo’s put-back with 2:49 to go. Ignas Brazdeikis, yes, that one, stymied the run one play later with a corner three after a bad rotation from Detroit.
Even a Spartans fan like myself loved that make from the former Wolverine.
It proved to be the end of the line for Detroit. Orlando grinded it out behind Brazdeikis (14 points) and Mo Bamba. The former lottery pick from Texas dominated tonight, making life hell for Isaiah Stewart (10 points, 8 rebound, 4/10 shooting) while pouring in 22 points along with 15 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
His length gave the Pistons all kinds of trouble down low, but funny enough, the one player who wasn’t really bothered by him was Tyler Cook. He scored 13 points on a flurry of dunks – most on passes from Saben Lee.
The diminutive backup had his best game in a few weeks with 9 points and 7 assists.
Another Detroit reserve, Frank Jackson, scored 19 points as he continues his hot steak. He turned his ankle late, which slowed him down. It’ll be interesting to see if that is a lingering issue tomorrow against the Charlotte Hornets .
Saddiq Bey continues to impress the heck out of me.
He just feels like a veteran already.
Bey was the alpha tonight with Jerami Grant out and he played really well. His 26 points came on a flurry of threes and step-back jumpers, while his 9 boards and 2 steals were a welcome sight. Diallo was a key to the late run, slashing his way to 16 points and 7 rebounds, while Killian Hayes looked more aggressive than he has in recent games en-route to 7 points and 7 assists.
Whether it’s individual stats or effort late, the Pistons played the kind of game you like to see.
However, they weren’t perfect for 3.5 quarters. The Magic had their way as everyone who played for them scored at least 8 points.
Only Dwayne Bacon and Cole Anthony failed to reach double figures, a testament to the lone defensive bright spots from Diallo, Bey and Hayes.
It was three guys clinging to their NBA livelihoods — Brazdeikis, Chasson Randle and Mo Wagner — who seemed to really give the Pistons the most trouble. Their energy wasn’t great, though their spirt at the end was.
Either way, Detroit now sits at 19-46. They’re a game up on Minnesota and two games up on Orlando and Oklahoma City for second in the lottery odds. They aren’t catching Houston, so this might be the best-case scenario over the final stretch of games.
The No. 2 lottery odds not only mean a 14% chance at the top pick, but an 80% chance at a top five pick… which is important in a draft that most feel has five top-level talents. It’s still going to take luck, of course, but this is the kind of loss that buys you a few more chances at getting lucky.
In the end, that’s what matters most right now.