The Detroit Pistons are on pace to win an unprecedented 73 games this season, potentially claiming the label as the greatest regular-season team in NBA history.
The Pistons improved to an NBA-best 24-3 and extended their winning streak to a season-high nine games with a 106-101 victory Thursday over Miami.
A third of the way through the season, Detroit is neck-in-neck with the history-making 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who were not only 24-3 after 27 games, but also won 18 straight en route to becoming the first team to win 70 regular-season games. The Bulls finished that season 72-10 before going on to win the NBA title.
Although the potential for making history is within their grasp, the Pistons aren’t focused on that.
“We don’t look at what the Chicago Bulls did,” Richard Hamilton said. “We just want to get home-court advantage.”
Knocking off the Heat in a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finals put Detroit one step closer to that goal.
Chauncey Billups scored 30 points, and Hamilton added 25 and had a season-high nine assists as the Pistons improved to 13-1 in December.
“Chauncey makes big shots,” Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. “We put the ball in his hands at the end of the game because he’s one of the top-three free-throw shooters in the league, and he makes good decisions.”
The lead changed hands 17 times before Billups sank two free throws and made a layup late in the fourth to secure the win. He went 12-for-12 from the free-throw line and had seven assists.
The Cavaliers had their six-game win streak snapped Tuesday with a 96-91 loss to New Jersey, dropping them seven games behind the Central Division-leading Pistons.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored seven of his 21 points during a late 12-0 run that cut the Nets’ lead to six.
“We didn’t want to get blown out or get embarrassed, being that it’s an Eastern Conference team,” James said. “We picked it up.”
Cleveland couldn’t recover completely though, sliding back into a double-digit deficit they couldn’t overcome. James, who has scored 30 or more points in 10 of his last 13 games, finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
“We can’t come back against a team like that being down 18 points,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “That’s tough to do.”
Cleveland has won three of its last four games at home against Detroit.