Pistons seek to firm up position vs. Nets

NEW YORK -- Last week, Reggie Jackson said he "planned on being on in the playoffs."

If the Detroit Pistons are going to book their reservations for the postseason, the next two weeks would be a good time for Jackson and the team to start accumulating wins.

When the Pistons visit the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night, it will be the second of eight consecutive games against teams with losing records.

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While this stretch to close March includes a visit to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, a visit to the Milwaukee Bucks on March 31 and a home game with the Miami Heat on March 28, it also contains two games against the league-worst Nets along with visits to the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks.

Producing a good record in this stretch would enhance the Pistons' grip on the eighth playoff spot. Detroit (34-36) is a half-game behind Milwaukee and tied with Miami.

The Pistons own the head-to-head tiebreaker by winning two of the first meetings over Miami. The preference would be to leave nothing to chance, which did not occur at times during a 112-95 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 23 points and Jackson added 10 of his 14 during the fourth quarter.

"In the first half and a good part of the third quarter, I thought we were really tight offensively," Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Guys wouldn't shoot open shots. We were trying to drive the ball into traffic and draw fouls when we had people open. I just didn't think we played our game. And then Pope hit a couple shots, got us going and then everybody loosened up a little bit."

To move into eighth place, the Pistons overcame a 65-53 deficit by scoring 11 straight points at the end of the third and at the start of the fourth quarter. The Pistons outscored Phoenix 35-20 in the fourth after being outscored 27-9 by the Toronto Raptors in the final 12 minutes Friday.

"You've got to learn to deal with the pressure," Van Gundy said. "You can't say there's no pressure, because there is, there's pressure on these games. But if you want to play at a high level in the NBA, you have to play with pressure."

Detroit is 19-16 since ending December with seven losses in eight games. The Pistons are 15-5 against teams with losing records since Jan. 1 and 25-13 overall against those opponents.

One of the games where Detroit did not get it done against a losing team occurred in a 109-101 loss at Brooklyn on Nov. 2. The Pistons allowed the Nets to shoot 71 percent in the first half, 54 percent overall and trailed for the final 46:50.

Among Detroit's problems in the last meeting was a lack of energy provided by Andre Drummond, who was benched for the final 14 1/2 minutes after getting six points and six rebounds in 25 minutes. That prompted Van Gundy to say the forward "brought nothing to the game."

Drummond brought plenty to Sunday's game with 18 points and 18 assists. He has 46 double-doubles and the Pistons are 25-21 in such games.

Brooklyn's injury problems with point guard Jeremy Lin started in the first half of the last meeting with Detroit and it likely continues Tuesday. Lin strained his left hamstring for the first time during the first half against Detroit in the previous meeting and is day-to-day after spraining his right ankle in the first quarter of a 111-104 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.

Lin missed a combined 43 games with two left hamstring strains from Nov. 4-Dec. 10 and Dec. 28-Feb. 15. The Nets are 4-9 since he returned after the All-Star break and 7-18 in the 25 games he played.

Lin does not believe this is a major injury and said he expects to return by the end of the season.

"Just day-to-day, nothing serious," Lin told reporters at practice Monday. "I'm encouraged. It was just an ankle tweak thing and not like a hamstring."

An absence by Lin keeps the Nets from seeing if he can be effective on the court at the same time as Brook Lopez. The duo has been on the court together for 421 minutes, spanning 22 games, and Brooklyn shoots 48 percent in those minutes.

In Lin's first absences, rookie Isaiah Whitehead saw significant time as the starting point guard but this time it will be Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie scored 18 points Sunday and is averaging seven points in 22 minutes during 46 games this season.

"He doesn't turn it over much and as you can see, when they start pressuring him he has the athleticism to blow by guys," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of Dinwiddie. "He made a couple of big plays getting to the rim. I think Brook is starting to trust him a little more, they're starting to get a little chemistry, so that's progress to me. It takes a while for the veterans to have confidence in a new guy."