The Detroit Pistons staved off elimination with a hot streak over the past two weeks.
They officially fell out of the Eastern Conference playoff race on Wednesday night when they lost to the even hotter Philadelphia 76ers 115-108. The Sixers stretched their winning streak to 12 games.
Detroit had won seven of its last eight games but couldn’t erase a midseason collapse that saw it drop from eight games above .500 to nine games below that mark. The Pistons (37-41) have now missed the playoffs in eight of the last nine seasons.
Article continues below ...
They’ll host the lottery-bound Dallas Mavericks on Friday, scrounging for reasons to stay focused.
“We still have four games to go,” Pistons forward Anthony Tolliver said. “We can claw and scratch and hopefully get to that .500 mark. Just something to play for.”
The Pistons have failed to make the playoffs in three of the four seasons with Stan Van Gundy as head coach and president of basketball operations.
“It’s tough, just because you work all season and to now be eliminated, it hurts,” forward Henry Ellenson said. “We had different goals coming into the year. We have four games left and we’ve just got to finish out strong.”
It’s uncertain how much their biggest star will play in those games. Power forward Blake Griffin has missed the last three games with a bone bruise in his right ankle. Van Gundy says Griffin will play if he’s healthy, even though the games are meaningless.
The Mavericks (24-55) will be without their future Hall of Famer. Dirk Nowitzki underwent a surgical procedure on his left ankle Thursday morning and will miss the remaining games. Before the Mavs’ 105-100 loss to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, he had appeared in all but one of the team’s previous 78 games.
Nowitzki reportedly decided to have the surgical debridement in order to accelerate the rehab process and play for one more season.
Guard J.J. Barea strained his left oblique during the game and will be shut down for the final three games.
“There’s nothing wrong,” Barea told Mavs.com. “I’m just making sure it won’t get worse. I don’t want to finish the season with it messed up. I had a good season.”
Coach Rick Carlisle has been juggling rotations on a game-by-game basis, often featuring end-of-the-bench types and players who spent a good portion of the season in the G League. Rookie guard Kyle Collinsworth played a career-high 35 minutes against the Magic and had 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
“I just try to play how I play, get in the lane, get my floaters up, be aggressive, find shooters, pick up full court and create some sort of leverage for us,” Collinsworth told Mavs.com. “When I come in, no matter if it’s four minutes or however many minutes I played tonight, I play how I play. With extended minutes, you should have a little better stat line.”
Dallas manhandled Detroit in the first meeting on Dec. 20. Barnes scored 25 points and the Mavs accumulated 43 second-quarter points in a 110-93 victory.