Two of the teams on the outside looking-in tip off against one another in NBA action on Wednesday evening. The Charlotte Hornets play host to the Detroit Pistons in a game between teams trending in opposite directions, but ultimately in the same place.Four and a half games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern conference and only eight games left to play. It’s a virtually impossible task for the Pistons, even winning all of their remaining games is unlikely to do the trick. Somehow, Stan Van Gundy’s team has found a way to play their best basketball at exactly the moment when they have been all but discounted.
Detroit has won six of their last eight games after losing 10 in a row. Over the last eight games, they’ve looked like a team that could compete in the East. Andre Drummond has played well even with Greg Monroe sidelined, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Jackson have finally shown that they can be a good backcourt duo.
It starts and ends with Jackson, who was brought to Detroit to be “the guy”. After averaging 14.2 point per game on wildly inefficient shooting through his first 11 games (10 of them losses), he has average 21.3 points and 11.4 assists during the team’s strong run.
Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker are both playing, Mo Williams didn’t end up being the answer and Lance Stephenson is barely playing for a Hornets team that is being kept in the playoff race through other teams’ ineptitude more than their own strong play.
The front court hasn’t been healthy for a while. Cody Zeller and Michael-Kidd Gilchrist both needed to pick up their play, but shortly after Jefferson’s return from injury, each has now been sidelined with their own injury issues.
It’s been a rough stretch for Charlotte. After winning five straight to start March, the Hornets have lost nine of their last 12 games, and four of their last five. Their only victory came at home against the Atlanta Hawks’ reserve lineup.
Walker has stepped up his game of late scoring 21 points in the win against the Hawks, before posting 28 points and 12 assists in Monday’s losing effort against the Celtics. Still, whether it’s a return from injury of a key player or Stephenson stepping up out of nowhere, the Hornets need something new to invigorate a postseason push.
Betting Preview: Charlotte (-4.5) vs. Detroit
The Pistons are trending well right now. Drummond is playing well on the front court, he actually looks better offensively than when Greg Monroe was in the lineup. Meanwhile, Jackson has figured things out and Detroit are playing without pressure, which is the exact opposite to a Hornets team that hasn’t really figured out all season long.
The Pick: Detroit (+4.5) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 39-30