Detroit Pistons: 5 Teams They Must Sweep in 2012-2013
If the Detroit Pistons hope to improve in the NBA's Eastern Conference this season, they must beat the teams they are supposed to beat. That doesn't mean taking three out of four from those teams either. It means sweeping the series.
Last season the Pistons went 15-6 against the eight teams that finished with worse records than they did. That's good, but not good enough. Six games was all that separated Detroit and Milwaukee—who just missed the playoffs.
There is no excuse for giving away victories to inferior talent. One loss here or there could be the difference between making, or missing, the postseason.
The Pistons used to be the team with inferior talent—but not anymore. They've got a strong nucleus of young talent that is only getting better. In fact, with several key additions that will bolster their interior defense, the Pistons could take a significant step forward.
That won't happen unless they turn that potential into wins Particularly against the NBA's have-nots.
Here are five teams that the Pistons absolutely must sweep next season.
* All stats in this article courtesy of ESPN.com
5. Charlotte Bobcats
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Is there any greater example of a "have-not" in the NBA than the Charlotte Bobcats?
Even with Michael Jordan's infinite wisdom, they struggled to be competitive on a nightly basis last season and finished with the worst winning percentage (.106) in NBA history.
The Pistons joined the rest of the NBA and beat up on the Bobcats. They swept the four-game series and won by nearly 15 points a game.
They should continue that dominance this year. Charlotte might have added Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but he's not going to turn their franchise around this year. They will still be cellar dwellers and 20 wins will be their ceiling.
The fact that Ben Gordon plays for the Bobcats should provide extra motivation for the Pistons. Gordon might have been a good teammate in Detroit, but he underperformed badly.
His time with the Pistons was one of the darker periods in team history.
What better way to turn the page than by soundly defeating him, and his new team, four games in a row.
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For the last six years, the Orlando Magic had an iron grip on a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. In fact, three of those years they won the Southeast Division.
Last year they started to slide. They finished third in their division but it was still good enough for a playoff berth.
The ongoing drama regarding their All-Star center, Dwight Howard, surely had something to do with their downfall. Now that he's gone, no one should expect them to shoot back up the standings though.
It's going to be a tough year in Orlando. That is why the Pistons should have a sweep on their minds.
Orlando fans watched as the face of their franchise walked away, and in his place they got six role players.
They won't make the playoffs next season and that opens the door for a team on the rise, like Detroit, to sneak into their spot.
If they hope to do that, defeating the Magic in all four of their meetings would be a great start.
3. Washington Wizards
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Full disclosure: I had the unfortunate pleasure of attending the Pistons' game against the Washington Wizards on February 12th, last year at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
I left the game with a bad taste in my mouth and it wasn't from the Palace concessions.
The Pistons lost 98-77 in what I can only describe as a dismal performance. It was ugly.
What I took away from that game was how the Pistons were dominated in the paint. JaVale McGee had a monster game—particularly on the defensive end. He only had two blocks but consistently altered the shots of any Pistons' player that entered the lane. Especially their guards.
McGee gave Washington exactly what the Pistons needed: strong interior defense.
Last year Detroit didn't have anyone like that but they took measures this offseason. They drafted Andre Drummond and signed rookie free-agent Slava Kravtsov from the Ukraine.
Both should provide a defensive boost in the paint which will give Detroit an edge against Washington.
McGee no longer calls Washington home. He's now with Denver and the Wizards did not effectively replace him.
For those reasons, the Pistons have a chance to dominate the Wizards and sweep the series.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons are kindred spirits. Both teams are rebuilding after lengthy periods of success.
The Pistons played nearly a decade of championship-level basketball led by outcasts like Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Ben Wallace.
For that reason the Pistons have had more time to develop a strong nucleus of young—and old—players with more NBA experience.
The Cavs might have young stars with a lot of potential, but they're not there yet. Kyrie Irving has all the makings of a star, but who can help him this year? Tristan Thompson? Dion Waiters? These are young players that need to develop before they can be counted on in the NBA.
The Pistons are ahead of the Cavs, who may not improve that much on their .318 winning percentage last season. That is why they should sweep the series and put more distance between them and their Central Division rivals.
1. Milwaukee Bucks
One of the easiest ways to move up in the standings is to defeat the team who is ahead of you. The last three seasons, that was the Milwaukee Bucks.
They only made the playoffs once during that time, but have maintained their position in the standings ahead of Detroit nonetheless.
Over the last two years they've only finished a combined seven games ahead. That means they are ripe for the picking.
They're a strong team but one that lives and dies by their guard play. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are two dynamic scorers and the Pistons will need to show that they've improved their perimeter defense if they hope to slow them down.
They didn't fare well last year, losing three out of four games to the Bucks.
The Pistons have improved in the offseason and a full training camp under second-year coach Lawrence Frank should result in more cohesiveness.
There's no reason they can't do better than 1-3 against the Bucks this year. The road to the playoffs goes through Milwaukee and sweeping the season series would put them in a great position to move up a spot in the Central Division.