The Detroit Pistons have clinched the Central Division and reached 50 victories for the fourth consecutive season. That can’t compare to winning back-to-back NBA titles.
The defending champions, winners of seven straight, head into the final week of the season looking to maintain their momentum in a matchup with the Orlando Magic.
Chauncey Billups scored 28 points, including the winning basket with 8.2 seconds left, to lift the Pistons to an 85-84 overtime victory over playoff-bound Chicago on Monday night.
Billups scored seven points in the extra period to lead a Detroit comeback after the Bulls scored the first eight points. The Pistons scored 12 of the game’s final 15 points to escape with the victory in the finale of a three-game road trip.
“That was a playoff game,” Billups said. “They came to play. We did too. People got their money’s worth.”
With the win, the Pistons secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference behind the Miami Heat, who Detroit defeated 80-72 on Sunday.
Detroit’s four straight 50-win seasons mark the franchise’s best run since Isaiah Thomas helped the Pistons reach the mark in five consecutive seasons from 1986-91. Detroit won NBA titles in 1989 and ’90.
“It starts there. When you’re on an elite team, that’s where you start at. You want to control your own division,” Billups said.
The Magic’s playoff hopes got slimmer with a 114-106 loss to Cleveland on Monday.
Dwight Howard had 23 points and 10 rebounds as Orlando dropped its fourth straight and fifth in six games to fall 4 1/2 games behind Philadelphia for the final East playoff spot. The Magic have five games remaining.
“It hurts really bad, there’s no doubt about that,” said interim coach Chris Jent, who fell to 4-9 since taking over for the fired Johnny Davis. “It’s really disappointing.”
Orlando, which lost forward Grant Hill (shin) for the season, opens a three-game trip that also takes the team through Chicago and Milwaukee. The Magic, who played well in a 114-102 home loss to the Pistons on Friday, are 12-26 on the road and 23-16 at the TD Waterhouse Centre.
STANDINGS (through April 11): Magic - 3rd place, 21 GB, Southeast Division. Pistons - 1st place, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Magic - Francis, 21.6 ppg and 7.1 apg; Howard, 10.1 rpg. Pistons - Hamilton, 19.0 ppg; B. Wallace, 12.1 rpg; Billups, 5.9 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Pistons, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: April 8; Pistons, 114-102. At Orlando, Fla., Prince, Billups and Rasheed Wallace combined for 71 points and Detroit shot 54.5 percent from the field (42-for-77), including 7-of-10 from behind the arc.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Magic - 12-26 on the road; Pistons - 29-9 at home.