The Detroit Pistons are rolling toward the postseason as a contender for the Eastern Conference title. The Orlando Magic are limping to the finish of an embarrassing season, with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft their only potential reward.
The Pistons will seek their seventh straight win when they visit the hapless Magic.
Detroit won for the 14th time in 16 games Friday, smothering the Toronto Raptors 74-66 behind their league-leading defense.
Richard Hamilton had 20 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, Tayshaun Prince added 14, while Ben Wallace had 16 rebounds and Rasheed Wallace added 12 for the Pistons, who were without staring guard Chauncey Billups due to an injured ankle.
Detroit is locked into the third seed in the East as Central Division-leading Indiana has already secured home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs, and the New Jersey Nets are Atlantic Division champs for a third consecutive season. Regardless, the Pistons have played the best basketball in the East since acquiring power forward Rasheed Wallace from Portland at the trade deadline.
Detroit has its highest win total since 1996-97, when it went 54-28.
The only thing the Magic have left to play for is the top overall pick in the June draft, and a loss in any of their last three games would give them the best chance of any team in the draft lottery.
Orlando has lost 12 in a row and locked up at least a tie for the NBA’s worst mark with Thursday’s 101-81 setback to two-time defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey.
“It’s been like this the whole season,” Orlando forward Drew Gooden said after scoring 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. “The whole season.”