Pistons look for playoff answers as regular season draws to a close

Posted at 8:33 AM, Apr 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-09 08:33:45-04

Despite losing four straight games, the Detroit Pistons sit in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference -- by the thinnest of margins.

With the end of the regular season in sight and the postseason within reach, the Pistons control their own destiny.

After losing to Charlotte on Sunday, Detroit (39-41) is one game ahead of the Hornets and Miami Heat, who both have 38-42 records, with just two games remaining in the regular season.

The path to the postseason is simple for the Pistons: Win on Tuesday at home against the Memphis Grizzlies and on Wednesday in New York against the Knicks, and Detroit's season will continue with a first-round playoff matchup.

"This is the time to suck it up and get it done," Blake Griffin said after Sunday's loss. If they had won, the Pistons would have clinched a playoff spot. "Whatever you have, whatever anybody has in this locker room, you've got to give it to the team. It's time for us all to give that ultimate sacrifice."

Early on against the Hornets, it appeared the Pistons were ready to clinch the final berth, but Charlotte went on a 51-19 run in the first half to take control and keep their slim postseason hope alive.

The Pistons came back in the second half and had three chances to take the lead, but failed to do so each time.

"Our disposition in the second quarter wasn't there," Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said. "I loved the way we played in the second half to get it to that point. You learn from it (and) you move on. Two more opportunities. Another opportunity on Tuesday here at home to take care of business."

If Detroit does take care of business, it will be without Griffin being 100-percent healthy.

In just his second game back after a three-game absence in dealing with a left leg injury, Griffin scored only 16 points on 5-for-18 shooting on Sunday.

"He's on the court," Casey said of Griffin who is averaging 24.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. "He's not 100 percent, but he's giving us what he has."

While Memphis plays out the string and heads into what could be a transitional offseason for the franchise, one player who has given 100 percent in recent games is Delon Wright, acquired from Toronto in the February trade for Marc Gasol.

In a 129-127 overtime loss to Dallas on Sunday, Wright started for the second straight game for an injured Mike Conley and recorded his second straight triple-double.

"He's been working at it and has had some really good nights for us," Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "Having to carry the load with Mike being out. ... Knowing you're going to have the freedom to make plays.

"His responsibility is to make his teammates better and he's playing that way."

Wright has earned the trust of his teammates as well with his hard work and recent play. Justin Holiday, who scored 30 in Sunday's loss, praised Wright for taking over for Conley in saying "Delon's been doing a great job getting that ball around ... just trying to finish the job he's been doing."

Memphis set a franchise record against the Mavericks by making 19 3-point attempts, with Holliday connecting on 6 of 11.

The Pistons and Grizzlies have played once this season, a game won by the Pistons on Jan. 2. Minutes after the 101-94 loss, then-Grizzlies players Garrett Temple and Omri Casspi were involved in a locker-room scuffle.