NEW YORK — The Detroit Pistons are playing better recently but it is likely a case of too little, too late.
The Pistons are on a four-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s visit to the Brooklyn Nets and, while not mathematically eliminated, the postseason is a long shot.
With six games remaining, Detroit (36-40) is five games back of the Milwaukee Bucks for the Eastern Conference’s last playoff spot. Detroit is 6-1 in its last seven games after placing five players in double figures and shooting 51.8 percent in a 115-109 win over the New York Knicks on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
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“It’s been a long season,” Detroit point guard Reggie Jackson told reporters. “It’s been a tough one for us. We’re not where we necessarily envisioned ourselves, but like I said I’m just proud of the resiliency this team’s had. Despite what our record may say, coming in every day and trying to get better and continue to battle.”
This stretch highlights the inconsistency Detroit has experienced at times this season.
Before the last seven games, the Pistons dropped 13 of 16 from Feb. 9 to March 17. They were 27-26 with a five-game winning streak following a nine-point win over Brooklyn on Feb. 7 and tied with the Philadelphia 76ers, but the slump dropped the Pistons 6 1/2 games out, creating an uphill climb.
During the last seven games, Detroit is averaging 109.1 points, shooting 46.6 percent and getting 49.4 rebounds while limiting its carelessness to 11.9 turnovers. In the previous 13 games, the Pistons averaged 99.6 points, shot 42.9 percent, averaged 44.3 rebounds and 14.1 turnovers.
If the Pistons are going to continue their surge, they will do so without Blake Griffin. Griffin sat out Saturday and will miss Sunday’s game after an MRI exam Thursday diagnosed the forward with a bone bruise in his right ankle.
A timetable will be provided as appropriate and it’s possible he might not play another game, especially if Detroit gets eliminated. On Sunday, the Pistons will be hoping the Denver Nuggets can help by beating Milwaukee in a game that starts two hours after the tip-off in Brooklyn.
Detroit will also hope Andre Drummond turns in another productive showing after getting his 58th double-double. Drummond totaled 22 and 17 points after getting his league-best seventh 20-20 game with 24 and 23 rebounds in Thursday’s win over Washington.
During Detroit’s last six games, Drummond is averaging 17.2 points and 18.0 rebounds.
Drummond is averaging 15.3 points and 20 rebounds in three games against Brooklyn this season. He totaled a season-high 27 boards in the last meeting on Feb. 7 and posted 22 and 20 in a 114-80 rout at Barclays Center on Jan. 10.
The Nets (25-51) are coming off a 110-109 overtime win at Miami on Saturday and are attempting to get a season-high third straight win after rallying from a 14-point deficit and escaping despite allowing 70 points in the paint.
Brooklyn is also hoping Sunday goes better than its last attempt at a third straight win. On March 21, after beating Dallas and Memphis, the Nets blew a 23-point lead in a 111-105 home loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
The Nets have won four of their last seven games since dropping 19 of 22 from Jan. 23 to March 16.
On Saturday, the Nets placed seven in double figures for the second straight game.
“We’re all going through growing experiences and this was a great growth,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters. “A lot of guys stepped up, a lot of guys made big plays.”
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson posted his 11th double-double with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Hollis-Jefferson has reached double figures in 11 straight games and 13 of 16 since returning from a strained groin.
Hollis-Jefferson also took a shot to the head late in overtime but is expected to play.
D’Angelo Russell played only six minutes Saturday, but it was not a physical issue and he will be in the starting lineup Sunday. Instead, it was about finding others to make plays while Russell struggled through a scoreless appearance.