It’s a generation removed since the Bad Boys of the Detroit Pistons were the last roadblock in the path of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls imposing themselves on the NBA.
Then, championships were at stake. Now, humbler awards are on offer. But the newest version of the Pistons are hitting their stride at the right time as the final push for Playoff places heats up.
Hosting the in-form Charlotte Hornets on Friday night, Detroit have shaken off their inconsistencies to win four straight and seven out of eight at home – a push that has moved them 1.5 games ahead of the slumping Bulls and into eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
Their recent streak has, however, come against sub-.500 teams. Charlotte, chasing homecourt advantage in the post-season, have won the two previous encounters between the two this term by an average of 17.5 points.
The Hornets are coming off their shock defeat of the Spurs earlier this week in a burst that’s seen them pick up 11 victories out of 13 over a five-week stretch. Only San Antonio and Golden State are hotter.
Numerically, their offensive output drops to 100.6 on the road. But they have hit the 100 in 10 of their last 13 and they’re also only conceding 96.9 against Top Eight opponents from the East, suggesting it’s worth a punt under 197.5 total points in the game.
There’s one other boon of late for Charlotte: the Return of Linsanity. Jeremy Lin has been coming off the bench to notch 22 points over his last three appearances, over 10 above his seasonal mark. It’s covered for a dip from Kemba Walker and it could be needed again with the fourth-year guard averaging only 15 ppg in his two previous clashes with Detroit.
Both teams will be playing desperately between now and their 82nd game. But there’s a lot to admire in the Hornets maturation over the second half of the campaign, especially with Al Jefferson’s presence following his return from a knee injury.
And at 2.08 for the win, it might be worth feeling that buzz despite the motoring Pistons.
Best bet: Take Charlotte over Detroit on a handicap of -2.5