The Toronto Raptors could receive a major boost as they try to move closer to earning home-court advantage in the playoffs Friday night when they host the Detroit Pistons, who have clinched the best record in the East.
Toronto (45-33) already has won the Atlantic Division title and must finish ahead of Southeast Division champion Miami to gain home-court advantage in the first round. The Raptors could wrap it up Friday if they beat the Pistons and the Heat lose to Indiana.
“Home court, that’s what’s within arm’s reach,” Toronto star forward Chris Bosh said. “We have to close out the season pretty well to accomplish that goal.”
Top overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani may be back in action for Toronto for the first time since undergoing an appendectomy on March 21. He practiced Wednesday and could see limited minutes off the bench.
“If he’s ready to play Friday, we’ll play him a few minutes,” Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. “He needs to get back and start playing and get his timing back.”
Bargnani is averaging 14.7 points in 13 games since the All-Star break.
“When he’s on the court with Chris, he just makes it tough,” Mitchell said. “Because guys have to respect Chris even more, they got to respect Andrea because he can shoot the basketball and he can put the ball on the floor.”
Toronto has won nine of 11 games—all since Bargnani went down—after beating Minnesota 111-100 on Monday. Anthony Parker scored a team-high 24 points as the Raptors used a 38-point fourth quarter to rally for the victory.
Parker has made 11 3-pointers in his last two games and is averaging 20.8 points during Toronto’s current four-game winning streak.
The Raptors also may get a break since Detroit (51-27) could rest some of its key players.
The Pistons clinched the top record in the East for the second straight season with a 104-99 victory over Orlando on Wednesday. Chauncey Billups scored 28 points, but had a bulky ice pack on his right thigh after the game and may get the night off Friday.
“I just got kneed,” Billups said. “I’m all right.”
The Pistons, who have won eight of 10, weren’t overly concerned about clinching the East’s best record. They’ve reached the conference finals four straight years and won an NBA championship in 2004.
“That’s nothing,” said forward Tayshaun Prince about the top seed. “After what Joe Dumars has brought here, and what we’ve accomplished on the floor, we’re not going to get excited about this.
“We’re not going to celebrate a thing unless we win it all.”
Detroit and Toronto have two meetings left this season. The most recent one came on Feb. 10 as the Pistons won 98-92 for their sixth victory in the last seven matchups.
“We’re going to have to measure ourselves against the best team in the East because we might see them in the playoffs,” Bosh said. “For one, we have to play against them well because this is going to be the model team for the playoffs. I think if you can play against Detroit, you can play against anybody.”