If there was ever a poster-boy franchise for a franchise that has failed to attempt to rebuild its foundation through tanking, the Detroit Pistons would garner serious consideration. Since the 2018-19 season, the Pistons haven’t finished with more than 23 wins. Last year, the Pistons only won 17 games.
Detroit has garnered several high draft picks over the past five years but hasn’t found the players to pull themselves out of the NBA basement. The Pistons losing streak entering this week sits at 23 straight. Even if Detroit can beat Atlanta on Monday, Utah on Thursday, or Memphis on Saturday, this looks like a lost season for the Pistons.
Around Christmas time, NBA teams look toward the second half of the season and figure out where they are. Here’s a look at some of the best games in the week leading up to Christmas week.
Philadelphia was always going to be a contender in the Eastern Conference. After an offseason of change, bringing in a new coach and seeing James Harden deal with the Los Angeles Clippers saw the 76ers have some growing pains early in the year. But Philadelphia has found its footing as of late.
The 76ers will take a six-game winning streak into their game with Minnesota Wednesday at home. The Timberwolves have exploded this season and are leading the Western Conference with a 19-5 record. Minnesota has been solid on the road, compiling an 8-4 record.
The Timberwolves are 14-10 against the spread but have gone 3-1 against the spread over the last four games. Anthony Edwards benefitted from his time playing with Team USA last summer to develop into a superstar. He is leading the Timberwolves by scoring 24.2 points per game this season.
Philadelphia is 18-7 against the spread this season. The 76ers have also kept things interesting by putting up points consistently. Sixteen of Philadelphia’s 25 games have gone over the total.
The Boston Celtics will be judged on how this season goes solely on what happens in the postseason. But Celtics fans have to be pleased with the progress so far. Boston has won five straight games and has the best record in the NBA at 20-5.
The Celtics will have an intriguing challenge Wednesday night at Sacramento. Boston will need to try to corral the high-flying Kings. What makes Sacramento fun to watch, if not agonizing for its fanbase, is the open style of play the Kings utilize.
Sacramento scores 117.1 points per game but is also generous with its opponents. The Kings’ opponents have shot 48.7 percent from the field and scored 116.6 points per game this season. Despite Sacramento’s high offensive output, the Kings have only seen 13 of their 24 games go over the total.
The Celtics don’t allow other teams to have such free range against their defense. Boston has the third-best scoring defense in the league. The Celtics are 12-11-2 against the spread this season and have covered their past three games against the spread. Jayson Tatum has continued to develop into an MVP candidate for the Celtics.
Tatum leads the team by scoring 27.3 points and grabbing 8.7 rebounds per game.
The Orlando Magic has shown its potential. The Magic have a lot of young, promising players trying to meld together into a productive team. Orlando has dropped two straight games in a week, where it has a home game Wednesday with Miami and a road trip to Milwaukee the next night.
The matchup with the Heat is an essential measuring stick for Orlando. Last year, the Heat ran to the NBA Finals, bringing back most of its lineup. Miami is in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, a game and a half behind Orlando. This will be the first meeting between the Florida-based rivals this season.
Orlando is 17-8 ahead of the spread this season. The Magic are coming off a week where it took back-to-back defeats to the Celtics. Paolo Banchero, Orlando’s No. 1 overall draft pick, has turned into a bona fide star by averaging 21 points per game.
The Heat have fought and scraped to a 15-11 record this season. Miami is 1-3 against the spread over the past four games. The Heat have already had injury struggles, with Tyler Herro only appearing in eight games.
What has carried Miami so far this season is its outside shooting. The Heat have made 39.1 percent of its 3-point attempts, which is the best mark in the league.
Things aren’t right in San Francisco. The Golden State Warriors look like a team in disarray. It’s bad enough that Draymond Green is suspended indefinitely for choking and punching opponents. But Golden State’s veteran roster has taken turns having a hard time performing at their best.
The Warriors beat Portland Sunday despite having Steph Curry go 0-for-8 from the 3-point line. Curry, not making a 3-point shot, snapped a streak of 268 consecutive games where he had made at least one trey. Golden State’s offense hasn’t been as consistent as the Warriors would have liked.
Golden State only shoots 45.5 percent from the field. The Warriors have also had their share of issues on defense. Golden State allows 115.7 points per game, which is 20th in the league. Not being efficient is a recipe for disaster for the Warriors against Boston Tuesday night.
The Celtics are one of the best defensive teams in the league. Boston also has much stronger defensive pressure since bringing in Kristaps Porziņģis in the offseason. If Golden State can’t figure out a way to get easy shots, playing Boston could be a rough night at the office for the Warriors, even at home.