Pistons have 7 chances to avoid tying franchise-worst record

Detroit News

Detroit — The Pistons have seven games remaining in one of their worst seasons in franchise history.

Detroit has compiled just 16 wins over the last five months, leading to the worst record in the NBA, at 16-59. If the Pistons fail to achieve one more victory before the season ends, it’ll result in a 16-66 record, tying the 1979-80 team for the worst record in team history.

The stat sounds dire on paper, but the Pistons’ misfortunes this season have been marred by injuries, inexperience and inconsistency.

Detroit’s final seven games are against a handful of teams that are still in playoff contention, including Oklahoma City, Brooklyn, Miami and Chicago. Not every team is still playing for the postseason, so the Pistons will have three optimal chances to secure their 17th win, against teams that are currently on the outside of the Play-In tournament picture (Houston, Orlando and Indiana).

When asked about their chances against the non-playoff teams, Pistons coach Dwane Casey insisted that the wins and losses aren’t important and the development of the team is the priority at this point of the season.

“For us, it’s growth and getting better, whoever we’re playing,” Casey told The Detroit News last week. “Whether they’re in the playoffs or out of the playoffs. That’s why practices like today are so important, to make sure we work on us, to develop us. We want to develop winning plays and habits. Those things, we’re going to continue to do. We’ve been doing it all year, so we’re not going to change now with our young guys.

“Mistakes next year, can’t happen. You don’t get playing time if you continue to make the same mistakes. This year, we’ve allowed guys to play through some mistakes. Next year, there’s not going to be an excuse as far as you can make that mistake and get away with it, when you’re playing for the playoffs.”

Casey is adamant about the growth, rightfully so, but here is a look at three scenarios that Detroit could realistically find themselves on the winning side of the scorebook:

Houston Rockets

The Pistons own the worst record in the league, but the Rockets aren’t that far behind them. Houston has the worst record in the Western Conference, at 18-58, and it’ll host Detroit on Friday night.

The Pistons lost to the Rockets, 117-114, at Little Caesars Arena on Jan. 28, but it was a game that was in Detroit’s favor until the game’s final moments. The Pistons led by as many as 14, but Kenyon Martin Jr. scored two clutch buckets in the final seconds to give Houston the edge.

Houston has lost its last six games, which could turn into a seven-game losing streak by Friday, since the team is in New York this week to face the Brooklyn Nets, who are currently sixth in the East.

The Pistons are desperately seeking to break their own six-game losing streak, and while it’ll be tough to beat Oklahoma City on the road, there may be a chance to rebound against the struggling Rockets.

Orlando Magic

The Pistons will end their three-game road trip this week with a game against the Magic on Sunday.

The Pistons are 2-1 against the Magic this season and each meeting has been eventful. Detroit opened its season with a 14-point comeback victory over the Magic on Oct. 19. The Magic returned to Detroit on Dec. 28, but the Pistons emerged with a 20-point victory behind 32 points from Alec Burks.

More recently, the Magic defeated the Pistons at the buzzer on Feb. 23 after Wendell Carter Jr. tipped in a layup as time expired.

Sunday’s meeting will mark RJ Hampton’s first game against his former team, after Detroit signed him to a contract during the buyout market.

The Magic (32-43), one of the young teams with immense potential, has won its last three games and will face the Memphis Grizzlies and Washington Wizards on the road before hosting Detroit in the series finale.

Indiana Pacers

The first leg of the Pistons’ final two games of the season starts in Indianapolis on April 7.

The Pistons are 1-2 against the Pacers this season and the lone win occurred on March 13, which stands as their only victory since the All-Star break (1-14). It was a total team effort by the Pistons, who were led by a season-high 22 points from veteran guard Cory Joseph in the absence of Jaden Ivey, who was out due to health and safety protocols. Rodney McGruder and James Wiseman added 18 points each.

The Pacers are currently 11th in the Eastern Conference at 33-43, which is 3.5 games behind the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the Play-In tournament.

A 20-point win on the road will be tough to duplicate, but Detroit should have Ivey back for this matchup, which will be the final meeting between him, the No. 5 pick of the 2022 draft, and No. 6 pick Bennedict Mathurin.

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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