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The Pistons had some ups and downs but in the final game of the season, they clinched their first playoff spot in three years. Rod Beard, The Detroit News

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New York — There wasn’t champagne or ski goggles or very much laughing or revelry at all. The Pistons clinched their first playoff spot since 2016, but the scene in the locker room at Madison Square Garden could just as easily been from any regular-season game. 

There wasn’t a big party atmosphere — almost no celebration at all — as the Pistons earned the No. 8 seed and will face the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs this weekend. It’s a daunting task, with potential league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Pistons are looking more at what they’ve accomplished and the task ahead. 

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The Pistons won without Blake Griffin but playing without him in the playoffs could be a bigger challenge. Rod Beard, The Detroit News

“We can’t be too excited right now. We got in, but the goal is to make noise. I got in before and got too excited and we lost 4 (in a row),” center Andre Drummond said. “We’re in now and have to get prepared for a really good team and try to beat them.”

The Bucks swept the four-game season series and the Pistons could be without Blake Griffin, who has a sore left knee, for at least the start of the series. Still, there’s something to be taken from finishing the regular season at .500 and making it back to the postseason.

The Pistons have wallowed in mediocrity the past two seasons, mostly because of injuries to Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith, but they’re showing their level of improvement by making a push to the playoffs. Getting Dwane Casey as coach was one of the first pillars to help turn things around. 

“Dwane and I have been talking about the idea of no limits and now we’re in the playoffs, but we’re not done,” said Pistons owner Tom Gores, who sat courtside for the clinching victory. “Being in the playoffs is not enough; we have to have a high standard of excellence.”

The Pistons won’t have a lot of pressure, as the lowest seed, but at minimum, can use it as an opportunity to gain experience for the young players and to have a good starting point for next season. 

“We’re still building something special. This is a first step, for us to get into the playoffs,” Casey said. “Our young guys need to experience it, to understand the level of intensity and what it takes to get there and get in there and make some noise.”

 

PISTONS AT BUCKS

Game 1: Pistons at Bucks, Sunday, 7 p.m. (TNT)

Game 2: Pistons at Bucks, Wednesday, 8 p.m. (NBATV)

Game 3: Bucks at Pistons, April 20, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 4: Bucks at Pistons, April 22, 8 p.m. (TNT)

* Game 5: Pistons at Bucks, April 24

* Game 6: Bucks at Pistons, April 26

* Game 7: Pistons at Bucks, April 28

* - if necessary

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard
 

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