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Would LeBron James celebrate winning the In-Season Tournament?
Streaks and Geeks
The Pistons won’t stop losing
Think back to last month on Oct. 28. We seemed so young, didn’t we?
It was the weekend before Halloween, so everyone dressed up like Barbie, Ken and Oppenheimer. The first weekend of 2023-24 NBA action was underway. And the Detroit Pistons beat Charlotte and Chicago by double digits to start the season 2-1. Cade Cunningham was making shots, Jalen Duren rebounded everything, and Detroit flirting with April’s Play-In Tournament didn’t seem so crazy.
Guess what hasn’t happened since that fateful night? The 2-13 Pistons haven’t won a single basketball game, though they’ve have had several close calls:
- Nov. 1 vs. Blazers: Detroit led by 12 at halftime and entered the fourth quarter with the lead. Portland outscored the Pistons 27-17 in the final period to win 110-101. The Blazers are 1-7 since then.
- Nov. 6 vs. Warriors: At home, the Pistons took a third-quarter lead after trailing at halftime. Golden State outscored Detroit by 10 in the fourth to win 120-109, pushing the latter’s streak to five.
- Nov. 8 at Bucks: Down by 119-118 with nine seconds left, Cunningham turned it over and then missed a half-court heave that would’ve won it at the buzzer. Milwaukee won 120-118.
Then, there’s last night. Nuggets coach Michael Malone was ejected in the first quarter before Nikola Jokić was ejected in horrible fashion in the next period (refs are out of control). Detroit had 24 minutes to grind out a win against the rest of Denver, which still doesn’t have Jamal Murray. The game was tied 103-103 with 1:41 left.
The Pistons went scoreless for the remainder of the game and lost their 12th straight game, 107-103. Their losing streak is two shy of tying the team’s longest in a single season. Detroit visits 7-5 Indiana on Friday and hosts Washington after that. If the Pistons don’t beat the 2-11 Wizards, they legitimately might not win again in 2023. They’ve won four games since last season’s All-Star break — four. Twenty teams have four wins this calendar month.
Massive group-play games tip
I’ll be honest: I’m unsure how to discuss the In-Season Tournament as group play continues. Three nights of this round remain (tonight, Friday and next Tuesday) before we know the eight teams for the single-elimination portion of the inaugural spectacle. Thankfully, John Hollinger did another great job of breaking down where we stand.
Group Play of the first-ever NBA In-Season Tournament continues with 5 GAMES TONIGHT!
🏆 2-0 Pacers can clinch spot in Knockout Round with win
🏆 3-0 Lakers can clinch spot in Knockout Round with win
🏆 2-1 Jazz can clinch spot in Knockout Round with win and PHX loss
🏆 Suns can… pic.twitter.com/08yrJOIuad
— NBA (@NBA) November 21, 2023
The Pistons, Wizards, Spurs and Grizzlies already waved goodbye to their tourney hopes and dreams, meaning they treated it like any other regular-season game. The Blazers, Hornets, Bulls and Thunder — yes, those Thunder — are all but eliminated too. It’s just math by now. With everybody else in the mix, let’s see the implications for each game and their terrible courts tonight:
- Raptors at Magic: Orlando can win East Group C by beating Toronto and then defeating Boston. They’d need some help from Toronto beating Brooklyn eventually, though.
- Pacers at Hawks: Indiana takes East Group A by winning this game. Atlanta winning could make this group very complicated.
- Cavs at 76ers: If Indiana loses, this becomes an elimination game. If Indiana wins, this game between Cleveland and Philadelphia could influence the East wildcard spot.
- Blazers at Suns: Phoenix still has a chance at the West wildcard but needs to win by a lot for point-differential reasons. Luckily, they’re playing Portland, so that’s likely.
- Jazz at Lakers: The Lakers win West Group A by beating Utah. If the Jazz win, their scoring margin could jeopardize the Lakers’ wildcard hopes.
Now that we’re getting closer to leaving group play, I’m getting into this!
Windy City Hot Seat?
Did Billy Donovan save his job Saturday?
On Saturday, the entire internet made fun of the Bulls for starting the game down 22-1 to the Heat. Eventually, basketball’s “game of runs” idiom played out as the Bulls won the game 102-97 and snapped a three-game losing streak. Last night, I wondered if the Heat would cough up a big lead to the Bulls for a second straight game.
The Bulls once again found themselves down by double digits to the Heat, this time after only 2:29 of play on Monday. Chicago trailed by only six after 12 minutes, but that deficit doubled by halftime en route to a 118-100 loss to Miami. The highlight of the game? Jimmy Butler screaming, “sky hook!” as he shot a sky hook.
It’s no secret Billy Donovan’s team isn’t having a good 2023-24 season. Chicago is 5-10 and ranks 23rd in net rating (minus-4.5). The Bulls are the NBA’s third-worst team by net rating when it comes to opening games (minus-16.6 in the first quarter). Oh, and don’t forget about Zach LaVine being on the trade block. They dig big holes for themselves and often can’t quite come all the way back. It’s a big sign of the team not being ready to play.
The Bulls had players-only meeting after their first game and publicly squabbled with their coach. And I truly wonder if Donovan’s job was saved by the embarrassment of Saturday night’s 22-1 start turning into a comeback win. Or maybe the Reinsdorfs are too cheap to pay two coaches. Maybe they believe in Donovan? Regardless, the Bulls rarely begin games well and are one of the NBA’s worst teams. That seat in Chicago is very hot.
The Wolves tried to tell us they’d be first in the Western Conference, like they are now.
Does Donovan Mitchell want to sign an extension in Cleveland?
Scottie Barnes and Cunningham have very different paths toward stardom.
It’s prove-it time for several contenders, per Hollinger.
Screen Game (All times Eastern)
- Main Screen: Cavs-Sixers (7:30 p.m. TNT). We could see Mitchell and Tyrese Maxey both go for 40 in this one.
- Second Screen: Jazz-Lakers (8 p.m.). This has massive In-Season Tournament implications! The Jazz can steal the group.
- League Pass Game of the Night: Pacers-Hawks (7:30 p.m.). Tyrese Haliburton against Trae Young is a must-watch. Remember: Indy can win East Group A. Full schedule here.
(Top photo: Cole Burston / Getty Images)