The Eastern Conference saw its playoff push last until the final night of the season. For both the Detroit Pistons and the Charlotte Hornets, emotions were riding high on which team will grab the final spot in the conference. Seeing how times have fallen for the Pistons, it felt as if this was yet another year the squad would let their playoff chances blow away. But, with Dwane Casey at the helm rather than Stan Van Gundy, things would turn out different for the Pistons.
Why the Detroit Pistons Made the Playoffs and the Charlotte Hornets Did Not
If you read the title, the Pistons making the playoffs came first. Let’s explain how it happened.
Why the Pistons made the playoffs
The answer to the title’s statement seems quite easy, the Pistons finished two games ahead of the Hornets. However, it wasn’t so easy. A stretch in December/January that saw the Pistons losing 16 of 20 had fans thinking, “great, another dud year.”. Blake Griffin wasn’t about to let this happen. At the trade deadline, the Pistons made a trade for Thon Maker, which had fans questioning Tom Gores once again.
After this trade, the Pistons sat at the eighth seed. Some people thought they should tank for Zion Williamson. Others thought they should challenge with what they have for a higher seed. Casey, Griffin, Andre Drummond, and a healthy Reggie Jackson elected to challenge. With that mentality and great team play, the Pistons then won 13 of 16 and saw themselves at the sixth seed. Then, Griffin got hurt.
The Pistons suffered, losing seven of nine down the stretch. However, with Griffin’s leadership and Drummond determined not to let another season go by the wayside, the Pistons won. They needed to win the last two to get in, and they did so. A challenging series against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks awaits. The Bucks swept Detroit in the regular season.
Why the Hornets Didn’t Get In
In the same stretch that the Pistons won 13 of 16 from February 4th to March 11th, the Hornets lost 11 of 15. They only beat two teams in that stretch, the Washington Wizards (three times) and the Brooklyn Nets. The Hornets, at the trade deadline, were destined to land Marc Gasol, but that didn’t happen. With no moves at the deadline, Frank Kaminsky had a stern reaction to it. Kaminsky was likely to be traded for Gasol, but now he turns into a potential buyout candidate.
Kemba Walker is looking for a max deal… somewhere. This laid heavy on Charlotte’s plate. Despite these rumors, the Hornets were able to win eight of 11 games down the stretch. Jeremy Lamb had a huge part in this, just ask the Toronto Raptors. The Hornets were able to make things interesting, with the Pistons’ struggles. However, a loss to the Magic on the season’s final night proved costly. Despite the Pistons’ lopsided victory in New York, the Hornets didn’t have the opportunity to get in had the Pistons fallen.
Is Someone at Fault?
For Charlotte, the finger can be pointed in one of a few directions. It can be pointed at Walker for the contract disputes. The finger can be pointed at Mitch Kupchack for not landing Gasol, or (rather positively) at James Borrego for lack of NBA head coaching experience. If I were to point somewhere, it would be in Kupchack’s direction. However, this is a learning experience for a young team. If they can return all their pieces and make a free agent splash, perhaps the Hornets could be in the postseason next year.
CHICAGO, USA – MARCH 22: Reggie Jackson (1) of Detroit Pistons in action during the NBA match between Chicago Bulls vs Detroit Pistons at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, United States on March 22, 2017. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)