Bests and Beasts
Pistons face top teams in each conference over next 2 days
In Portland, they get the NBA’s No. 1 team in offensive efficiency. In Indiana, they get the league’s top-rated team in defensive efficiency.
“I haven’t even looked at it like that,” Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said the day after snapping a three-game losing skid by building a 21-point lead over Brooklyn and hanging on to get a four-point win. “I just know we’re playing two great basketball teams and our first obstacle is Portland. And then we’ll see where we go after that.”
The Trail Blazers take a 19-4 record into their game at Philadelphia tonight, so at least the Pistons will have the rest advantage over Portland. Not so when they play at Indiana – where the Pacers are a perfect 11-0 this season – on Monday. Indiana beat Charlotte at home on Friday night and has the rest of the weekend off.
The Pistons might have a fully healthy team, at least, for their daunting back to back. Will Bynum played an enthusiastic half-court game of three on three with players in need of a little competitive action – Peyton Siva, Tony Mitchell, Gigi Datome, Charlie Villanueva and Josh Harrellson, all but the latter largely outside of Cheeks’ rotation – and said he hopes to play Sunday.
Bynum has missed the last nine games and 14 of the last 16 with a left hamstring injury. After missing five games in November, he reaggravated the injury by returning too soon, so the team is being naturally cautious in the timing of this comeback.
“I’m feeling better,” Bynum said. “It’s still kind of tight, but I’ve been doing two a days, just trying to take myself to the extreme. I’ve been playing some one on one, full court. I’ve been working out, lifting, been in the pool. I’ve been doing it all. I’m not sure yet (about playing Sunday), but I’m hoping for it.”
With all guards healthy, Cheeks would have a decision to make. He’s maintained he didn’t see playing more than four guards a viable option and, when he had all five available for a brief period in November, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the odd man out. But the rookie became the starter when Chauncey Billups went out and has given the Pistons a lift defensively.
“He ‘might’ play, so we don’t have to make that decision right now,” Cheeks said. “We’ll see what happens.”