Pistons-Bobcats Preview

Charlotte didn’t get any help from Detroit in its bid to move up

in the Eastern Conference. Now, the Bobcats will try to take out

their frustrations on the lottery-bound Pistons on Saturday

night.

The Pistons (26-53) snapped Miami’s nine-game winning streak

Friday with a 106-99 victory. The Bobcats (42-37) missed a chance

to cut their deficit over the sixth-place Heat, however, after they

fell 97-90 to Houston later that night. Charlotte is two games

behind Miami with three games left.

The Bobcats were without leading scorer Stephen Jackson (21.3

points per game), who sat out due to various injuries, and they

faded after the break, scoring 16 points on 6-of-18 shooting in the

third quarter. Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw each finished with 18

points.

Still, Charlotte secured no worse than a seventh-place finish in

the East as the Bulls lost in double-overtime to league-worst New

Jersey and the Raptors fell to Atlanta.

That means the Bobcats will make their playoff debut by avoiding

a first-round matchup with LeBron James-led Cleveland for now.

“It doesn’t matter who you play,” center Tyson Chandler said.

“Once you get in, it’s just an eight-team race. You’re going to

have to face the Cavs, regardless. If you’re trying to get to the

championship, you’re going to have to face the Cavs.”

While the offensive performance left much to be desired,

Charlotte did get its defense back on track. The Bobcats had

allowed 100 points in each of their last two games after opponents

averaged 90.1 points and topped 100 once in the previous 17.

Charlotte will try for another solid defensive effort against

Detroit. The teams have split their previous two meetings, and when

they last met on Dec. 22, the Bobcats won 88-76 at home behind 29

points and 12 rebounds from Wallace.

Wallace, who is averaging 18.3 points, is trying to break out of

his April slump in which his scoring has dipped to 14.6 points.

While the Pistons have one of the worst records in the East,

they are looking to win four straight for the first time since a

season-high five-game run from Dec. 4-12. They played Friday

without Rodney Stuckey (ribs) and Richard Hamilton (ankle), but Ben

Gordon scored 26 of his season-high 39 in the second half.

Gordon signed a $55 million, five-year contract last summer, but

has struggled with injuries and failed to live up to expectations

after he averaged 20.7 points last season with the Bulls. He’s

scoring 13.5 this season, but has at least 20 in three of Detroit’s

last five games.

“It is a joy just to watch him play,” first-year coach John

Kuester said after Gordon started Friday for the first time since

Nov. 25.