A No. 8 seed beating a No. 1 seed-that is exactly what basketball fans have witnessed three times so far this postseason. The Indiana Pacers are currently down two games to one to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.
Atlanta’s playoff success is important for a few reasons. First off, it shows that the best record does not necessarily reflect the best team. Second, it shows how quickly a team can collapse, especially when its 7-foot-2 center is completely absent from his own body and the team’s star scorers are not performing well either. Third and probably most importantly to Pistons fans, it shows what could potentially have been theirs: a first round playoff series win.
Up to all-star break, the Pistons were vying hard for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Few people had championship hopes or expectations for the team, but they did at least believe they could make the playoffs. At least two people in Detroit either did not share that vision or did not want to see that vision.
Owner Tom Gores and ex-general manager Joe Dumars were not satisfied with Maurice Cheeks’ performance as first-year head coach in Detroit and decided to can him halfway through the season. This move obviously confused many analysts and upset just as many. The general consensus was that Cheeks got the short end of the stick and was unfairly punished for the three-headed mess named Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, that Dumars created.
Regardless of whether or not Gores and Dumars treated Cheeks fairly, the Pistons did definitively worse under interim head coach John Loyer. Despite debuting with a win against the San Antonio Spurs, the Pistons since the All-Star break have been awful. In fact, the Pistons were so awful that they were the only team Philadelphia could beat in 27 games.
One twisted bright side Pistons fans have to look forward to in this is the fact that a bottom eight finish this year has guaranteed the Pistons their first round draft pick. If the team did even slightly better, their coveted pick would have gone to the Charlotte Bobcats which were swept by the Miami Heat. Perhaps this was the effect that management desired. Conversely, this bottom eight finish reflects just that – another bottom eight finish for a mediocre team. Is this really what fans want?
Personally, I would have liked to see the Pistons in Atlanta’s spot right now in the playoffs. Perhaps Indiana would have done as expected and swept if they played the Pistons in the first round instead of the Hawks. The key piece of this image is the fact that the Pistons would have ended their playoff drought if they kept fighting and won that No. 8 seed.
Obviously a first round draft pick is incredibly important to a franchise. Then again, so is winning is it not? There was no guarantee that Detroit could have won the No. 8 seed had Cheeks stayed in charge. They were definitely in the running for it, however.
Fans do not watch the games this season to see a team that wants to improve next season. Fans watch so they can see their team win now.
Colin Jackson is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.