Stan Van Gundy is aware that the forecast models paint a dim outlook for the Pistons’ playoff chances.
ESPN.com says they have a 1.1 percent chance to finish in the field, which is rosy compared to 538.com’s evaluation of something less than 1 percent.
“To me, it’s no different than being down 10 with six minutes to go,” he said after Monday’s practice with the Pistons amid a rare four-day break in the schedule after last week’s pileup of four games in five nights. “I can read all those, 538 or ESPN … all I know is we’ve done it, so same thing here. Do we have a great chance in terms of the numbers? No. But we have a chance and so you keep playing. That’s my only thought right now.”
The Pistons have gone 2-9 since beating New York on March 11 to get to .500, beset by the bottoming out of their offense – the end of the floor that has been the biggest driver of their decline from a season ago. Over those 11 games, the Pistons rank last in scoring (93.6 points a game) and 29th in offensive rating (95.6), field-goal percentage (.412) and 3-point percentage (.279).
Offense that impotent eventually causes a drag on a team’s defense, but the Pistons – the No. 10 rated defense for the season despite the No. 26-ranked offense – still ranked solidly in the middle of the pack, 15th, on defense during the 2-9 streak.
The Pistons went 1-3 during their four-in-five stretch last week, with two of the losses of the soul-crushing variety: on a buzzer tip against Miami – a play in which the NBA identified two missed foul calls against the Heat – and in overtime against Milwaukee after the Pistons came back from an early 18-point deficit.
“Two of the toughest ones to take all year,” Van Gundy said. “And in both it really came down to getting a rebound. Being able to get rebounds at key times – especially when you’re the best defensive rebounding team in the league (the Pistons are No. 1 in defensive rebound percentage) – and two tough losses come down the fact that you don’t get a rebound, that’s tough.”
There is very little separating seven teams from No. 5 seed Milwaukee to the Pistons, currently 11th in the East. Van Gundy says the Pistons have to win their last five games – starting with Toronto’s visit to The Palace on Wednesday – and then hope for some help ahead of them.
“Right now it’s just continue to fight. We know the deal,” he said. “We have to pretty much go undefeated and we need a couple of teams to lose three more games. It’s not easy, but nothing’s impossible in this league.”