The Detroit Pistons won’t finish the regular season with 64 wins like they did last season, but they will be in the same position heading into the playoffs.
Detroit, the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed for the second straight year, closes out its regular season when it visits the conference-worst Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
The Pistons (52-29) are looking for their second consecutive season series sweep against the Celtics. Detroit won all three meetings last year, and has taken the first three matchups of this season’s four-game series.
Chauncey Billups had 24 points and seven assists to lead the Pistons to a 109-102 home win the last time these teams met on Feb. 6. Billups, originally drafted by the Celtics in 1997, is averaging 19.6 points and 10.4 assists in five games against Boston over the past two seasons.
Since clinching the top seed on April 11, the Pistons have lost two of three while resting their starters more than usual. They recovered from back-to-back losses on Tuesday, beating Toronto 100-84 in their regular-season home finale.
Richard Hamilton, who scored 12 points in 23 minutes, was the only Detroit starter to reach double figures.
“It was cool,” said Billups, who had two points and 10 assists in 21 minutes. “It was fun for us to come out, play hard, get our rhythm back and then just be able to sit back and watch.”
The Celtics (24-57) also bounced back from a losing streak this week, winning for the first time in eight games with their 91-89 defeat of Miami on Monday. It was Boston’s third straight game decided by two points.
“These last couple games have been going down to the wire,” said Delonte West, who had 28 points. “Anytime you can get that kind of experience it can only help you. It’s good for our confidence after the season we’ve had to end on a positive note.”
Al Jefferson had 20 points with 13 rebounds for his 37th double-double of the season. Jefferson is averaging 16.0 points and 10.9 rebounds in 68 games, a major improvement on his career averages of 7.2 points and 4.7 boards before this season.
Rookie guard Rajon Rondo added 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds for the Celtics, who started five players 24 years old or younger.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys with an average age of 22,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Any win you can get for them is good.”
Wins have been hard to come by for Boston, which will finish the season with the NBA’s second-worst record and the franchise’s worst mark since going 15-67 in 1996-97.
The Celtics haven’t beaten Detroit since a 115-113 double-overtime win on March 11, 2005. They are 1-12 against the Pistons since the start of the 2003-04 season, including seven straight losses - their longest losing streak to the Detroit franchise since the teams began playing each other in 1954.