With their positions in the Eastern Conference playoff picture all set, the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors continue to tune up for the postseason when they meet Tuesday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Detroit (51-29) clinched the top seed in the East on Wednesday and Toronto (47-33) wrapped up the third seed on Sunday, putting the teams on opposite sides of the bracket. Both teams are still waiting to see how the bottom half of the East shakes out to determine their opponents for the first round.
Pistons coach Flip Saunders has given his stars plenty of rest in losing two straight since clinching the East’s best record, including an 87-84 defeat at Toronto on Friday. Although point guard Chauncey Billups did not play, Detroit held a 69-58 lead heading into the fourth quarter before starters Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace saw limited action in the final period.
“Rasheed didn’t play the end, Rip didn’t and Chauncey didn’t play at all,” said Toronto forward Anthony Parker after the game. “These are guys that have rings. If we see them hopefully it will be in the Eastern Conference finals, but yeah, we have to play a lot better.”
Saunders’ starters also played sparingly in a 102-91 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday.
Billups was back in the lineup, but no Pistons starter logged more than Chris Webber’s 26 minutes. Saunders gave a long look to second-year forward Amir Johnson, who had 12 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks.
The 19-year-old Johnson, however, made just 3-of-12 shots in only his sixth game of the season.
“Amir’s still got a ways to go,” Saunders said. “During one timeout, Chauncey hit him on the top of the head and reminded him that this isn’t the NBDL. He can’t just launch shots over everyone in this league.”
Detroit is playing its home finale and will close out the regular season Wednesday at Boston.
“All the guys have to realize that come next week, the one thing that you can’t alter is how hard you play,” said Saunders, who has never coached a team to the NBA finals.
Toronto claimed the No. 3 seed with a 107-105 victory over New York on Sunday. Chris Bosh had a solid all-around game with 23 points, eight rebounds and a season-high seven assists as the Raptors won their sixth straight.
Headed to the playoffs for the first time in five years, Toronto will set a franchise record for victories in one season if it wins one of its final two games.
“This will go down as one of the best seasons in Raptor history,” Bosh said. “We have to make sure we have the best postseason. We have to get ready to kick it off at home.”
Coach Sam Mitchell hasn’t decided how he will alter his rotation over the next two games, including Wednesday’s finale at home against Philadelphia.
“We are going to play our guys,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, we are going to cut guys’ minutes but I don’t think we are in a position where we just don’t put a uniform on our guys.”
Mitchell may use the two games to work in rookie Andrea Bargnani, who has missed the last 13 games since undergoing an appendectomy on March 21. Bargnani, averaging 11.5 points, has been cleared to play, but has been bothered by the flu.
Toronto has dropped seven straight visits to Detroit.