Detroit Pistons (21-56) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (22-54)
When: 8 p.m. Friday.
Where: Paycom Center in Oklahoma City.
TV: Bally Sports Detroit.
Radio: WWJ-AM (950) (Radio pistons affiliates).
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• Box score
THURSDAY’S WIN:Pistons use epic fourth-quarter run to upset 76ers, 102-94
CADE THE GREAT:How Cunningham showed ‘it’ factor vs. Nets, Durant
Game notes: Entering the week, this matchup, on the second night of a back-to-back for the Pistons, sure looked like a playoff game for a top-three spot in the draft lottery. It probably is still that, with the Pistons and Thunder sitting in the third and fourth lottery spots entering Friday, with OKC trailing Detroit by 1 ½ games. (The Magic and Rockets are tied for the top spot at 20-57; the teams with the three worst records each have a 14% chance of winning the No. 1 pick and a 52.1% chance of remaining in the top four.)
The Thunder had a brutal March, with just three wins in 15 games. Two of those three wins were against the Magic and the rapidly plummeting Portland Trail Blazers. OKC has been betrayed by its defense over that stretch, giving up 122.7 points a game while scoring just 112.5; that’s especially true on the perimeter, where teams shot 39.7% on 3-pointers in March against the Thunder. The Pistons, meanwhile, averaged about 110 points a game in March and appear on the upswing with a competitive loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday (in which Cade Cunningham scored 34 points) and an epic rally on Thursday night to take down the 76ers ( the No. 3 seed in the East, and two games out of the top spot) by eight points.
Friday’s game is also another matchup of rookies; Cunningham — who starred at Oklahoma State — is making his Rookie of the Year case nightly, while the Thunder have … uh, just about everyone. Of the eight Thunder players who suited up in an 18-point loss to the Hawks on Wednesday, five were rookies, with only Theo Maledon, Aleksei Pokusevski and Isaiah Roby (the grizzled veteran out of Nebraska in his third season) entering this season with NBA experience.
HOOPS HALL CALL:Report: Detroit Shock star Swin Cash leads class of 2022 Basketball Hall of Fame induced
Not following up is Josh Giddey, a 19-year-old Australian who went sixth overall to the Thunder last summer. He was averaging 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists while shooting 41.9% from the field before a bad hip shut him down for the year.
After they depart OKC, the Pistons will have just four more games: a Sunday game against the Pacers in Indy, a Wednesday game against the Mavs at LCA, a visit from the defending champion Bucks on April 8 and, finally, a rematch with the 76ers in Philly on April 10. The Thunder, meanwhile, have home games against the Suns (Sunday) and Blazers (Tuesday) before hitting the road to face the Jazz, Lakers and Clippers.
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Contact Ryan Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @theford.