AUBURN HILLS – You need to look to the right of the decimal point before the Pistons playoff odds register, but Blake Griffin will play when his ankle feels OK and he’s medically cleared.
That won’t be Wednesday when the Pistons host a team with a 10-game winning streak, Philadelphia, as they try to extend their own winning streak to six.
The Pistons, after going 7-1 in their last eight games, sit four games behind both Miami and Milwaukee, the teams currently occupying the last two playoff spots in an Eastern Conference where six teams – Toronto, Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Indiana and Washington – have clinched berths.
The best chance for the Pistons to beat the 0.6 percent odds ESPN.com’s projection model gives them is to end up tied with Milwaukee or in a three-way tie with the Bucks and Heat.
A tie with the Bucks results if the Pistons go 5-0 and Milwaukee 1-4 or the Pistons go 4-1 and Milwaukee finishes 0-5. The Pistons would win the tiebreaker with the Bucks based on a superior division record since they split the season series 2-2. (The Pistons are 8-7 in the Central Division with one game left – at Chicago to close the season – and the Bucks 6-10.)
The Pistons and Miami also split their season series 2-2, but the Heat own the tiebreaker based on a superior conference record. (The Pistons are 23-26 in the Eastern Conference, Miami 28-20.)
In a three-way tie, the Pistons and Heat would get the playoff berths based on a better record in games involving the three teams. Miami went 3-0 against the Bucks this season.
There’s no discernible schedule advantage for any of the three teams. Three of the Pistons five remaining games come against lottery teams with the two others – Philadelphia on Friday and the home finale against Toronto on Monday – coming at Little Caesars Arena. Milwaukee has a similar closing schedule with games against two playoff teams (Boston, Philadelphia) and three lottery teams (Orlando, New York, Brooklyn.) Miami also plays two playoff teams (Toronto, Oklahoma City) but before that has a back to back with Atlanta followed by a road game with New York.
Griffin ran on an anti-gravity treadmill at 60 percent body weight on Tuesday, Van Gundy said, and reports progress in his recovery from a right ankle bone bruise.
“We’ll just continue to evaluate,” Van Gundy said. “We’re not going to do anything stupid. We’re not bringing him back if he’s not ready to come back, but if he’s ready to come back he’ll play whether it’s the last two or the last game or whatever. If a guy’s ready, they play.”
The good news is that Griffin will be the only player – other than Jon Leuer, who’ll miss the last 74 games of the season with an ankle injury of his own – to miss the game with Philadelphia, which will be without Joel Embiid.
Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard, each of whom finished Sunday’s win at Brooklyn on the bench after taking blows to the head that left them light-headed, checked out OK. And Andre Drummond, ejected late in Sunday’s third quarter after an altercation provoked by Brooklyn’s Quincy Acy, was fined but not suspended.