This is the time of year that most teams are opting to sit their best players, either because they are so far out of the playoff picture that they don’t want to risk injury in a meaningless game or to rest their superstars once their position is clinched in hopes of a deep postseason run.
But some teams find themselves in that unenviable middle ground of trying to secure one of the last remaining playoff spots that are still up for grabs as we head down to the wire. The Detroit Pistons are one of those teams. With just two games remaining they’ve lost four straight and hold just a one-game advantage over the Charlotte Hornets — who beat them on Sunday 104-91 — for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
That means no rest for the weary, namely Blake Griffin, who was an All-Star again this season amid a bounce-back year in Detroit. Griffin has been battling knee soreness, but head coach Dwane Casey says he won’t have the luxury of resting down the stretch as Detroit tries to scratch and claw their way into the playoffs. Casey was somewhat circumspect about Griffin’s injury when speaking to reporters and perhaps inadvertently revealed a rather ominous assessment after the loss to Charlotte.
Griffin returned on Friday after missing three straight games and exploded for 45 points, including nine three-pointers, in a loss to the Thunder. But he struggled in their loss to Charlotte on Sunday, going just 5-of-18 for 16 points and was at times seen on the exercise bike by the bench trying to stay loose.
As to the nature and severity of his injury, the full details likely won’t emerge until their season is over, but it certainly begs the question about whether this could be a bigger issue that might affect health long-term. For now, though, the Pistons are focusing on winning out as they host Memphis on Tuesday, then travel New York to finish the season against the Knicks.