Auburn Hills — With seven games, remaining, the Pistons’ chances of making the playoffs are not looking good.
Entering Thursday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, they were three games behind the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, who are tied for eighth place with only seven games remaining. And after losing eight of their last nine games, they’re not trending toward closing that gap at all.
After the loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday night at The Palace, the Pistons’ chances slipped considerably and although they’re not mathematically eliminated, they’re certainly not in a good position. Even given that situation, coach Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons aren’t giving up on the season, and are looking to turn things around in their remaining games.
“I expect (us) to come out and play hard and well. We’ll see what happens, but that’s what I expect,” Van Gundy said after Thursday’s shoot-around. “It’s been really tough and I understand everybody’s disappointed in our locker room. We got ourselves in this situation and we have to play seven games hard and well and whatever happens happens.
“We’ve got to take care of our business over the last seven games.”
Four of the remaining games are on the road and after Thursday’s game against the Nets, the Pistons have just two more at The Palace before they move downtown next season to Little Caesars Arena.
There’s a sense of wanting to finish the season on a strong note — whether they make it to the postseason or not — but there won’t be any tanking or experimenting at this point, Van Gundy said. That would include using unusual lineups or seeing more playing time for rookies Henry Ellenson and Michael Gbinije or even big man Boban Marjanovic.
“Right now, we’re playing to try to win and stay in this with whatever small shot we have,” Van Gundy said. “Until then, there’s no thought of looking at things for next year. Right now we’re doing whatever we think is best to try to get the win.”
Van Gundy reiterated that Reggie Jackson isn’t hurt and that it’s Van Gundy’s decision to keep him out of the lineup, possibly for the remainder of the season.
In the past couple weeks, Van Gundy has used Stanley Johnson more to initiate the offense, trying to take advantage of his ball-handling skills to create more opportunities. The early returns have been mixed, at best, but it’s an area that he’ll look to pursue.
“Last game, we saw a lot of turnovers on the fast break. He’s got the ability to do it; he’s just got to make better decisions,” Van Gundy said. “The more he does it, the better he’ll be. He’s made some good plays at times over the year and at times, he can get out of control, especially in transition on the break.
“It’s a part of his game that we can develop and he can be good at.”
Johnson’s playing time has fluctuated this season, as he’s tried to find time behind Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but if he can create more scoring chances off the dribble, getting him more into the flow of the offense instead of playing off the ball, his stock will rise.
“He has been into the flow a little more. Compared to early in the year, he’s had the ball in his hands more and he’s been a bit more aggressive offensively,” Van Gundy said. “Those are good things and it’s just decision making and making shots.”
Pistons at Bucks
Tip-off: 8 p.m. Friday, Bradley Center, Milwaukee
Outlook: The Bucks (39-36) surged into playoff position with a hot streak of 13 wins in 16 games. All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 23.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists.