Despite Circus Surrounding Team, Pistons Sit In Playoff Contention

Normally a 15-26 team would be looking forward to the draft at the halfway point of the season, not the postseason. But despite the struggles and controversy swirling around them, the Detroit Pistons actually have a legitimate shot at the NBA Playoffs.

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With the impending sale of the franchise and trade rumors surrounding guard Richard Hamilton, the team has broken through by winning its last three games. This was capped by a drubbing of the Dallas Mavericks on Martin Luther King Day, the Mavs' sixth consecutive loss. More importantly, the win put Detroit just 2 1/2 games back of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Here's the updated playoff standings as of 6:30 today:

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7.   Philadelphia 13.5 GB
8.   Indiana        13.5 GB
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9.   Charlotte       15 GB
10. Milwaukee    15.5 GB
11. Detroit          16 GB

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The top-heavy East features just six clubs with winning records, with Boston leading the way at 30-9 and bottoming out with New York at 22-18. After that there is a severe drop off, with seventh place Philadelphia holding a 17-23 mark. It's conceivable that three teams with losing records could make the Eastern Conference playoffs. Compare that to the West, where all eight teams currently in the playoff picture have winning records and also houses the league's best team in San Antonio (35-9).

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Considering the uncertainty of Hamilton's future and the unstable ownership, the Pistons in playoff contention is quite remarakble, albeit with a little help from lackluster competition. The Pistons are loaded with guards up front, with Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum and Tracy McGrady all vying for playing time. Perhaps Hamilton's benching in conjunction with the impending three team deal that would send him to New Jersey has cleared up everyone's role on the team.

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One thing Detroit will have to fix if they intend on making the postseason is their road game: Detroit is just 4-17 away from The Palace this season.

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