Cavs, Pistons get their own little playoff game

Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson (13) drives against Detroit Pistons power forward Greg Monroe (10) in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena.

Cleveland Cavaliers (28-44) at Detroit Pistons (26-44)

Venue: Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Mich.

TV: 7:30 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio (Cavaliers Live pregame starts at 7 p.m.)

Projected Starters

CLEVELAND: C Spencer Hawes; PF Tristan Thompson; SF Alonzo Gee; SG Dion Waiters; PG Jarrett Jack.

DETROIT: C Andre Drummond; PF Greg Monroe; SF Josh Smith; SG Kyle Singler; PG Brandon Jennings.

Pregame Notes:

— I’m here in Auburn Hills because, believe it or not, these teams still have playoff aspirations. They may be pipe dreams – but they are dreams nonetheless. And you can talk all you want about the Eastern Conference being awful (it is), or how the Cavs and Pistons have been disappointments (they have). But until these teams are officially eliminated, this game matters.

— I know there’s a contingent of fan bases from both sides that want to lose to improve chances in the draft lottery. I get that. But regardless of what you think is the best plan, Cavs coach Mike Brown and Pistons interim coach John Loyer both want to win as much as possible. And yes, they both have the support of their front offices.

— For the record, the Cavs are 4 ½ games behind Atlanta for the final East playoff spot with 10 games to go. The Pistons are 5 ½ back with 12 left. Also, in case you’re wondering, the Hawks own the tiebreaker over the Cavs. The Hawks are at Minnesota on Wednesday, then return home Thursday to face Portland.

— According to the oddsmakers, the Cavs and Pistons each have less than a one-percent chance to make the playoffs. And to be totally honest, that sounds about right.

— Like the Cavs, the Pistons have been one of the East’s biggest disappointments. The Pistons were excited about the acquisitions of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, the hiring of coach Maurice Cheeks and the development of big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. That was indeed a lot about which to get excited.

— But it only proved to be good on paper. Drummond has indeed to continue to be a beast, but other than that, Detroit has been a dud. Monroe is basically the same player he was a year ago (good, but not better), Cheeks got fired in his first season with the team, and Smith and Jennings have been so-so at best. Both are ball-stoppers and bad-shot-takers in their own way.

— Loyer, of course, is a University of Akron product and member of the school’s 1986 NCAA Tournament team that lost, coincidentally, to Michigan in the first round. Most folks around these parts don’t think Loyer will keep the job, unless the Pistons miraculously get into the playoffs. For that to happen, they pretty much need to go 12-0, maybe 11-1 at worst, in this final stretch.

— Instead, the Pistons supposedly have their eyes set on Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. He more or less shot down any perceived interest. Other potential candidates include former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins and current Pacers assistant Nate McMillan.

— As for the Cavs, one impressive stat I noticed is they have shot at least 50 percent from the floor in four of their previous five games. The ball is moving and they’re defending better. Is it too late? Probably for this year. But hey, this is sort of a playoff game for them, so maybe not. Keep winning, and you’ll see the real postseason.

Follow on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO