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Rockets vs. Pistons game preview: someone has to win

NBA: Houston Rockets at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons met earlier this year in the Motor City, with Houston winning as Jerami Grant’s game-winning layup came just a fraction too late. The win started a six game winning streak for the Rockets. At the end of the streak, the Rockets (sans James Harden, of course) were 10-9 and knocking on the door of the playoff picture in the Western Conference.

A 1-19 stretch later, Houston is now fighting with the same Pistons for the second worst record in the league. With the new NBA lottery format, being the second worst team is no different than being third worst. Both teams have the exact same odds for all four top spots, which are the crucial spots for Houston. In case anyone needs a refresher: the Rockets owe their first round pick in a swap with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but is protected 1-4. So if the Rockets finish outside of the top 4 picks (a 47.86% chance, as long as they finish in the bottom 3), they will end up with Miami’s pick (likely around #20, though things can change).

A couple of years ago, this game would carry significant weight. Both teams would be “trying” to win but really trying to lose. Today, the outcome is almost irrelevant. Even with a win, Houston would still hold a one game edge over Orlando for the third worst record in the league. A loss would put Houston “ahead” of Detroit, but only by half a game with plenty of season remaining.

Geez, that was a depressing intro. I hope it was helpful for someone.

The Pistons won their most recent game, a 116-112 finish against the Toronto Raptors. Detroit had 6 players finish in double figures, including 23 points from Jerami Grant, 28 from rookie Saddiq Bey, 18 from Delon Wright, 16 from Charlie Conway Josh Jackson, and 10 apiece for Mason Plumlee and Isaiah Stewart. Bey, Plumlee, and Wright finished with double figure rebounds as well, giving the Pistons three players with double-doubles, which is impressive. Wright was 2 assists shy of a triple-double as well.

For Houston, Christian Wood was able to knock off some rust against the Warriors, and his return was a welcome sight for Rockets fans. He’ll go against his former team tonight. Danuel House Jr. should also be available after his return from injury. John Wall and Ben McLemore are questionable. Houston will still be missing Eric Gordon and David Nwaba.

Houston’s new players, DJ Augustin and DJ Wilson, could be available tonight. As of this writing there has been no word on when the players involved in the trade will be getting their physicals. It’s usual for trades to take a couple of days to become official, and with COVID protocols in place that time period could be extended. More than likely, Houston will look similar to the way they did Wednesday night in the loss to Golden State.

Tip-off is at 7pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest