One of the most popular Schoolhouse Rock! educational cartoons drove the point that 3 is the magic number.
It’s most apt for the Pistons, who can clinch a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs if three things happen today. The Pistons (39-40) still have three games remaining in the regular season, with the logjam for the sixth through eighth spots — and a margin of just a half-game separating the Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets and Pistons, who are in eighth place.
The Miami Heat started the day in ninth, just a game behind the Pistons, and the Charlotte Hornets are two games behind Detroit. The Heat stumbled in overtime on Sunday to the Raptors, 117-109, the first of three dominoes the Pistons need to fall to clinch a playoff spot Sunday.
Today’s other potential-clinching scenario are:
► The Pistons beating the Hornets, 4 p.m.
► The Nets winning at Indiana, 5 p.m.
A Pistons win today also would eliminate the Hornets from playoff contention. There are many other tiebreaker scenarios that could come to fruition today.
The Nets can get in with a win over the Pacers and a loss by either the Pistons or Heat.
The Magic have the inside track on winning the Southeast Division and getting into the playoffs with their recent surge of eight wins in the last 10 games. They get in with a win at Boston or losses by both the Heat and Hornets.
The Heat can’t clinch a playoff spot, but would be eliminated with Sunday's loss to the Raptors, along with wins by both the Pistons and Nets.
The East playoff field could be determined today, but the seedings still are up in the air. With just three games left for the Pistons and two for the Nets and Magic, the tiebreakers could come into play, which include head-to-head matchups for two-way ties and in case of a three-way tie, the Southeast Division winner takes precedence.