Pistons center Andre Drummond has shown Andrea Bargnani and the rest of the NBA what he is made of. (Clarence Tabb Jr / Detroit News)
Auburn Hills — Even though the Pistons have 30 games left this season, the next two could prove to be among the most important.
Fresh off their All-Star vacation, the Pistons play back-to-back games starting today against the Bobcats, who are a half-game ahead of them for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“We’ve just got to understand how important it is and not really put any added pressure on ourselves,” forward Josh Smith said. “But we have to be able to understand that coming out of this break, we have to be a team on a mission.”
Part of that mission will be avenging a Dec. 20 loss to the Bobcats at the Palace. The Pistons carried a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter, but Charlotte won, 116-106, after scoring 41 points in the final 12 minutes, including 15 from center Al Jefferson.
“That was a tough game for us,” Pistons center Andre Drummond said. “We had the game won, but we made a couple silly mistakes down the stretch of the game.”
While the Pistons have a tough task ahead of them, interim coach John Loyer said he would try to implement some changes after the All-Star break. There won’t be much time to tweak things this week as the Pistons have two back-to-backs.
Loyer took over last Sunday after Maurice Cheeks was fired 50 games into his first season in Detroit.
“It’s a big series,” said Loyer, who’s 1-1 as interim coach. “They’re a team we’re fighting with to get into the playoffs, and when you play a team like that back-to-back, it just puts added meaning on a normal regular season game.”
With two months left in the regular season, these games against the Bobcats won’t make or break the Pistons’ season, but the three-game season series could play a factor down the road if tiebreakers come into play.
The race for the final few seeds could change daily over the final two months as there are four teams, including the Knicks and Cavaliers, within three games of the No. 8 seed.
“We really need these next two wins so we can really get ourselves going again,” Drummond said.
Making an impression
While Drummond’s 30 points and 25 rebounds stole the show in the Rising Stars Challenge Friday, a blunder after the game became a hot topic this weekend.
During the MVP presentation, BBVA president Angel Cano dropped the trophy before handing it to Drummond. However, Drummond said it was a non-issue because the trophy is actually two pieces.
Drummond thinks his performance helped show NBA fans how hard he’s been working for the Pistons.
“I think the way I played on that stage in front of the whole NBA and just worldwide kind of puts a big buzz around my name,” he said.
The Pistons hired longtime NBA assistant coach Scott Roth, Loyer confirmed.
The firing of head coach Maurice Cheeks and assistant Maz Trakh left the Pistons down two coaches, and Roth will fill one of the slots.Roth has been coaching in the NBA since 1996, spending time on staff with the Mavericks, Grizzlies, Bucks, Warriors and Raptors.
... Rodney Stuckey practiced. He missed the second half of last Wednesday’s loss to Cleveland because of dizziness.